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158193>5 



OSMANIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

Call No. S32> -<W f qfe S Accession No. 

Author 
Title 
This book should be returned on or before the date last marked below. 



BOOKS BY 



Rene Fulop-Miller 



THE SILVER BACCHANAL 1960 

THE NIGHT OF TIME /P55 

THE WEB 



FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY: 

INSIGHT, FAITH AND PROPHECY 



SING, BRAT, SING 

THE SAINTS THAT MOVED THE WORLD 

TRIUMPH OVER PAIN 1938 

LEADERS, DREAMERS AND REBELS 

SECRET AND POWER OF THE JESUITS 

RASPUTIN, THE HOLY DEVIL 1928 

THE UNKNOWN TOLSTOY 1928 

LENIN AND GANDHI 1927 

MIND AND FACE OF BOLSHEVISM 1927 



The Silver Bacchanal 



The . 

Silver 
Bacchanal 

by 

Rene Fulop-Miller 



TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN 
by RICHARD AND CLARA WINSTON 



COPYRIGHT 1960 BY RENE FULOP-MILLER 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER 60 1 1036 

PUBLISHED SIMULTANEOUSLY IN CANADA 

BY LONGMANS, GREEN & COMPANY 

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

BY H. WOLFF, NEW YORK 

DESIGNED BY HARRY FORD 

First Edition 



Erika^ 



TO MY WIFE JLTIHU^ TO WHOM I OWE EVERYTHING 



Contents 



i 

ARRIVAL 5 

II 

BANQUET 33 

III 

TO THE GIRLS 43 

IV 

THE BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS 

V 

ROOM ZERO 73 

VI 

AFTERMATH pO 

VII 

THE MAYOR'S CREATURES 103 
VIII 

FAMILY LIFE IN THE BORDELLO 

IX 

CHARADES I$2 

X 

THE MIRROR HELL l6$ 

XI 

THE SILVER BACCHANAL 

XII 

PROMOTION 206 

XIII 

DROHITZ REVISITED 21 J 

XIV 

REUNION 

XV 

FAREWELL 



The Silver Bacchanal 



I 
Arrival 



M 



-iscellaneous remnants of our beaten army 
had been slogging toward our new destination of Drohitz 
more dead than alive. But as we nearcd the town, faint 
sounds of music began to mingle with the monotone drum 
of our tramping feet. At first it was like music gradually in- 
truding upon the unconsciousness of sleep. Then, as it came 
closer, the separate notes blended into a familiar melody. 
Our drooping shoulders stiffened; our numbed senses re- 
sponded. 

If those we had left behind on the road, and those who 
had died of thirst or wounds on the hill, had been with us, 
they too would have quickened to the pulse of this music; 
they too would have straightened up and marched jauntily 
along. For the city band, which had come out to greet us, 
was now approaching, blasting away with the joyous force of 
the national anthem. 

Spontaneously, our entire line of march broke into roar- 
ing song. All that we had suffered deprivations, terror, fa- 
tigue was dissipated by the resounding chant from our mob 
of living corpses! 

And not only men but nature herself was swept along. 
The earth beneath our feet, the trees lining the road, the 



^ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

fields and meadows, hills and valleys, the very air and the 
clouds rushed into the torrent of music. It was as though 
the national anthem had always been reposing in all things, 
and now magically rang forth. 

Led on by the band, which met us and reversed, we 
reached a meadow beyond the city line. On a wooden plat- 
form stood a table decked out with flowers and streamers. 
At the table sat the frock-coated representatives of the city, 
flanked on both sides by ladies in festive garb. Behind the 
table, under a forest of flags, stood deputations from patri- 
otic organizations, school children with their teachers, and 
groups of citizens. 

When we drew to a stop, all the city representatives and 
the ladies rose, and the flags and banners waved as though 
blown by a gale. 

Adam, will you look at that! I said to myself. 

After having lived for months in muddy trenches, seeing 
nothing but filthy, tattered uniforms, we would have found 
it a revelation to encounter a single civilian in a clean suit. 
Out there we had almost forgotten that God had created 
any faces other than those frozen into masks of savagery and 
fear; to see a woman's face again, no matter what the vin- 
tage, would have been enough to send us into ecstasies. 

Here, on the Drohitz parade ground, all these things were 
flung at us at once on our arrival. Everything a town had to 
offer in the way of finery and splendor, all the charm of 
women, girls and children, stood lined up for our reception. 

Plunged completely without transition into this blaze of 
color, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I did not know where 
to look first, what face to linger on. 

But suddenly I became painfully aware of the wretched 
figure I must cut in my battered uniform and ragged beard. 
Dismayed, I began combing my beard with my fingers and 
trying to scrape the crust of mud from my jacket. The others 
around me were likewise engaged in making themselves a 



i Arrival) r 

bit presentable. Our discomfiture, however, lasted only until 
we noticed that the women and girls were smiling graciously 
at us invitingly, in fact. 

At first, smiling back came hard. When you have not 
smiled for months, your rigid features scarcely remember 
how to go about it. But as soon as the spell was broken, our 
faces dissolved into grins. What the band music had started! 
and the pomp of the reception had furthered, was completed 
by these exchanges of smiles. Along with our rigidity, the 
last vestiges of our torpor were washed away. We belonged 
to life once more. 

After the national anthem had been sung in mighty uni- 
son by the greeting citizens and the greeted army, a solemn 
silence ensued for a few seconds. Then one of the frock 
coats arose, tapped a gavel three times on the table and an- 
nounced: "His Honor Mayor Gospoda will address you." 
The attentive eagerness with which the citizens of Drohitz 
turned toward their mayor was testimony to their high re- 
spect for him. 

Mayor Gospoda was a broad-shouldered, corpulent man 
with cheeks suspended like two fleshy sacks below his eyes. 
He had that dignity so often attaching to his physical type, a 
dignity embedded solidly in the flesh, sustained by massive 
shoulders and swelling middle. Manuscript in hand, he 
donned his glasses, took a deep, snorting breath, and began 
reading his speech. But he had scarcely spoken the first 
words, "Glorious army, honored guests," when a highly em- 
barrassing incident brought him to a halt. 

Corporal Barnabas, who stood beside me, had apparently 
let the cordiality of the occasion go to his head. Suddenly he 
burst into laughter. 

"Barnabas, are you insane!" I whispered sharply to him, 
nudging him in the ribs. 

"I ... I don't want . . ." he stammered, and I saw that 
he was struggling to regain control of himself. He wrinkled 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

his brow and cast his eyes down, trying to print a look of 
gravity upon his face. But it was all in vain. 

Perhaps the matter would have created no stir, and the 
mayor would have been able to continue his address, if I had 
not placed my hand over Barnabas' mouth. That misguided 
effort to bring him back to reason really produced the 
disaster. Forced back by my hand, the repressed laughter 
now bubbled forth through my fingers. 

Barnabas' laughter spread instantly like a plague, infecting 
more and more of the men. There is no doubt that the en- 
tire company would have burst into a thunder of laughter 
if Commander Konrad had not come posthaste from his 
place in the front row, shaken Barnabas by the shoulder, and 
bellowed at him, "You dummox!" With a shower of similar 
epithets he brought the other laughers to order. 

The urbane manner in which the mayor treated this dis- 
turbance showed that he well deserved his constituents' ad- 
miration. When the laughter started, he had quietly and 
with no sign of fluster laid his manuscript aside. He waited 
patiently until the tempest died down. Then, as Com- 
mander Konrad was about to apologize for the unseemly be- 
havior of his men, the mayor good-naturedly waved the 
apology aside and continued: 

'The solemnity of this great historical moment which 
brings us together here could not have found a better expres- 
sion than the spontaneous manifestation of rejoicing which 
we have just heard. You soldiers have truly expressed your 
gladness of heart that we are today beginning a new chap- 
ter in our heroic war. And that gladness" he had now 
skillfully led back to his prepared speech "it is my honor- 
able duty also to express today in the name of our city, in- 
deed in the name of our whole great country." 

He spoke with great eclat, and had to pause for breath 
every few seconds, which brought out with even greater ef- 
fect the genuine sentiment in his address. "For in this great 



i Arrival) ,_ 

hour, Drohitz is the shining symbol of the pride our whole 
nation feels in our heroes. The regrouping of our glorious 
army which is taking place in our city will soon lead our 
nation to sure and final victory. For us of Drohitz, however, 
upon whose soil the wise counsel of the Supreme Command 
of our army has ordered this regrouping for us of Drohitz, 
therefore, the hour has struck which will one day glow with 
golden letters in the annals of the country's victories. We are 
proud and happy to greet you here. Drohitz is yours, sol- 
diers of a glorious army. Hurrah for the army, hurrah for the 
fatherland!" 

"Hurrah for the fatherland, hurrah for the fatherland!" 
thundered from the throats of hundreds of soldiers. Where- 
upon the brass band once again struck up the national an- 
them, and everybody sang along. 

I must confess to my shame that hitherto I had been any- 
thing but a heroically minded patriot. In fact, I had been a 
dud at patriotism from birth. Even in childhood my games 
had been such international ones as catching butterflies and 
collecting stamps. Pushing tin soldiers back and forth had al- 
ways bored me. When I started to grow up, I was so en- 
grossed with girls that I gave little thought to historical dates 
and crucial victories. As a soldier in training, I found that 
my service to God and country consisted chiefly of doing 
knee bends, to the accompaniment of invigorating curses. 
My experiences on the battlefield were likewise not condu- 
cive to the breeding of patriotism. 

But now all this suddenly changed. The mayor's brief 
welcoming words had turned me into a burning patriot. 
While he spoke with such fervor of our heroic services to the 
nation, everything I had experienced during this war looked 
different in retrospect. The horrible hill of the dead where I 
had been stationed shone radiantly as the field of honor. 
Our panic-stricken flight was transformed into an orderly 
strategic withdrawal whose sole purpose was to lead us on to 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

fresh victories. The ragged remnants of a beaten army had 
suddenly risen anew as a glorious host, and all our sufferings 
were transfigured into grand sacrifices. 

To be completely honest about it, not only the speech 
but another experience contributed to my change of mind. 
While the mayor was talking, one of the high-school girls in 
the welcoming group turned her eyes away from the speaker 
and smiled at me. She was a brunette and I've always been 
partial to brunettes. I returned her glance and smile, and we 
went through the usual ocular maneuvers. When, after the 
speech, everyone hurrahed, it seemed to me that although 
we were cheering our native land she was cheering me and I 
her. 

After the singing of the national anthem, preparations 
for the welcoming breakfast began. Some committee ladies 
started setting out platters of canapes, homemade pastries 
and pitchers of refreshing beverages on a long table for the 
officers. Meanwhile a number of boys and girls rolled up the 
soup kettles for the enlisted men. A breath-taking odor of 
stew wafted across the parade ground and tickled our nos- 
trils, palates and stomachs, throwing us all into a patriotic 
frenzy. When at last the sign for eating was given, we took 
off for the kettles at as mad a dash as we had made during 
our flight. 

However, I never reached them, for suddenly I found my- 
self face to face with the little brunette. She had broken 
away from her class and was tripping toward me. Her apricot 
skin, her black-cherry eyes, her strawberry lips, and her 
breasts like half-ripened plums reminded me of our orchard 
in Caran where I had taken Zorika, my first love, by the 
hand. 

For a second the smell of the stew and her heady fra- 
grance contended; the urge to run farther wrestled with the 
desire to stand still and to take this girl by the hand, as if she 
were Zorika. After all the privations on the hill I was starved 



i Arrival) Q 

and thirsty. But my other senses were still more starved, 
more thirsting, after having been deprived for so long. And 
here stood this girl, this orchard of a girl, and she was I 
cannot express it in any other way ripe for plucking, for 
savoring, delicious enough to eat! 

For a moment I was too embarrassed to say anything. 

"Welcome," she greeted me, and I felt quite giddy hear- 
ing a girl's voice again, having a girl so close that her breath 
brushed across my face. 

She, too, seemed disconcerted. "I have so many questions 
to ask you ... oh, I'm so excited," she began, as if apolo- 
gizing. "I'm sure you'll understand. My papa was a general, 
and he always used to tell me of the heroic life of soldiers in 
the field. I wished so often that I had been bom a boy, so 
that I could experience all that for myself. Poor Papa, he 
missed his chance at service this time. He died just two 
months before war was declared. You do understand, don't 
you, what it means to me to talk to someone who was out 
there in the field and fought like a hero?" She paused 
briefly, and her black-cherry eyes took all of me in apprecia- 
tively. "Yes, you're just the way I always pictured a hero 
from Papa's stories!" she exclaimed. "So young, so straight, 
with just such a forehead, such a chin! Exactly, exactly!" 

Good Lord, how I must have changed in these past few 
hours, I thought to myself. And feeling her rapturous look 
linger upon my heroic brow, I pulled off my filthy old cap 
and began brushing away at it. She touched my arm tim- 
idly. "May I hold the cap for a moment?" she asked, reach- 
ing for it. 

Her touch upon my arm put me in such a dither that I 
could do no more than stammer, "Certainly, certainly." 

"You must tell me all about your experiences," she went 
on. "It must have been marvelous." As she spoke, she was 
fingering my cap, and now she covertly pressed it against her 
unripe-plum breasts. "I have been trying to guess from your 



JQ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

uniform what branch of the service you belong to. Am I 
right in thinking that . . . No, you had better tell me your- 
self." 

"Gravedigger in the medical corps/' The words slipped 
out of me. As soon as I said it, the Pandora's box of memory 
snapped open, and all that I had been through on the hill, 
the horror, the disgust, the whole wretchedness of my ex- 
perience, emerged. There I stood, soaked to the skin, on 
that muddy, frigid slope of death that was Hill 317. If only 
the girl had not pressed me for more details. But she kept 
questioning me, and so I could not escape from the charnel 
house of memory. And Heaven knows, what I had to tell 
her made a miserable tale. 

Now you've fouled yourself up; you've ruined the whole 
orchard, I thought. 

But my fears were unfounded. As a newcomer to a rear- 
echelon patriotism, I simply had no idea of the way en- 
thusiastic civilians regarded the facts of combat. Besides, I 
forgot that I was talking with a general's daughter who had 
been raised to honor heroes. And so at first I did not no- 
tice, as I told her about my job as a gravedigger, that her 
excitement was only growing. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes 
flashed, her breath came faster; all the fruits of the orchard 
began to quiver, until at last she cried: "How marvelous, 
how stirring! To return to the native soil the men who have 
fallen for the fatherland, to see to them in the midst of 
enemy fire. Oh, how heroic, how grand!" 

At once the specters of memory vanished and the elevat- 
ing feeling I had had during the mayor's speech came flood- 
ing back. I could feel my chest swelling, my whole body 
growing inches in stature, and my biceps bulging. Now I be- 
came aware of the fondness in her look. She asked whether 
she might meet me in the afternoon in Humperdinger's 
pastry shop on Barett Street, so that she might introduce me 
to her girl friends. 



I Arrival ) j j 

"I'm afraid I can't manage today, but how about tomor- 
row afternoon?" I said, rattling off the duties that awaited 
me. "And above all," I added, "I must get out of this filthy 
uniform and hunt up some decent clothes, so that I look 
human again." 

She gave me a disappointed look, fell silent for a moment, 
and then asked shyly whether I would do her a favor. It 
turned out she wanted my old jacket as a memento of the 
war. 

Never would I have dreamed that this disgusting rag, 
which I could not wait to be rid of, would be a treasure to 
anyone. She looked at me pleadingly as she spoke, and I 
have never learned to say no to a girl. So we arranged that 
after our new uniforms were issued, she would wait for me 
at the school gate, so that I could give her the jacket. 

The bugles sounded assembly. "Oh, I've been so excited I 
forgot to ask your name," she said as I indicated that I must 

go- 

"Adam Ember," I said. 

"Adam? My Adam," she whispered. 

"And your name?" I asked. 

"Sarah," she replied. "But to you I'll be Eve." 

"Good, Eve, see you soon," I said, and my imagination 
ran over all the delights of the Fall. 

The second bugle blast sounded. I had to hurry to my 
company. The spicy scent of stew wafted across the field. 
The kettles were being rolled away. "Stop, stop," I called to 
a boy who was pushing one. He stopped, opened the lid, 
dipped the ladle into the kettle and drew it out filled with 
fragrant, meaty stew. Then the third signal sounded. I must 
not lose contact with my company, I thought, and ran on. 

The sight and smell of the stew had raised such a hunger 
in me that I scarcely knew what to do. "That's what you get 
for your Eve, Adam," I said to myself. "Dreams in the head 
and nothing in the belly. The others were smarter, they took 



j2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

things in the right order: first the stomach and then the 
heart." But soon I consoled myself. Suppose I did have 
nothing in my belly while the others had stuffed theirs; on 
the other hand, the others would have to march off first, 
change their uniforms, have their quarters assigned to them, 
and dispose of all the regulation fuss before they so much as 
sniffed a real girl and could begin setting up their Eden. 

This thought made me feel better, and I could have 
borne my hunger bravely, if the fellow beside me, who must 
have had guts instead of brains inside his head, had not 
gone on and on about the meal. "Man, how that tasted. 
. . . Makes a guy feel human again. . . ." And when I did 
not respond at once, he went on: "What do you say? I mean, 
those were man-sized hunks of meat, weren't they!" And he 
dwelt upon them with the vividness of a professional glut- 
ton. 

"Umph," I grunted affirmatively. After all, I could not tell 
him that . . . He would have thought me stark, raving mad. 

We marched into the heart of the city, into the wonder- 
land of civilian life. We were received by people whose in- 
nocence of all things military could be read in their faces. 
Not only did they treat us like human beings, they trans- 
ferred to us all the emotions they had saved up for their 
loved ones in the armed forces. A hot torrent of wifely, 
parental, filial and widowy love washed over us. The few 
quartermaster corpsmen sent over to Drohitz from the 
nearby garrison town of Podol, who were to take care of 
outfitting us and giving us our pay, could not begin to dam 
this torrent of civilian affection. 

The formalities connected with our billeting took place 
at the school, which until our arrival had served the praise- 
worthy purposes of useful instruction and the happy games 
of children. God must have been in His finest creative 
mood when He invented civilian life, I thought, as I at- 



i Arrival) j* 

tended the proceedings in the schoolyard. Ladies of society, 
assisted by town officials, sat at small tables and issued the 
billeting orders. Before them were spread lists of all available 
accommodations, with exact details on situation, size and 
equipment, all neatly indexed. But the entire carefully 
planned official procedure was thrown into confusion by 
the ladies' enthusiasm. 

Each lady of the committee was determined to outdo all 
the others. Feminine charm, private connections with town 
officials, flirtatious looks, genteel but pressing recitals of the 
unsurpassable advantages of their own houses the ladies 
threw everything into the breach in order to win the hero of 
their choice and snatch him from under the noses of their 
rivals. 

I felt as if I were at a summer resort in the slow season. 

"My room has a garden view and is only two minutes 
from the main square." 

"Mine has a private bath and kitchen privileges/' 

"My room has beds with innerspring mattresses/' 

Our ragged men stood stunned amid the clamor of rival 
voices, unable to decide which lady and which room they 
preferred: the pretty brunette with dimples and garden view, 
the attractive blonde with private bath and kitchen privi- 
leges, or the raven-locked little lady with piquant tiptilted 
nose who offered her innerspring mattresses with such seduc- 
tive looks that she seemed to be throwing herself into the 
bargain. 

Dr. Zitrom had promoted me to medical platoon leader; 
therefore my quarters depended on his. As a result, I was 
spared the torment of choosing. A tall, suntanned baroness, 
not exactly in the first flower of youth but with a kind of 
thoroughbred beauty, had sailed her way into the doctor's 
good graces. She owned a castle on the outskirts of town, 
one wing of which had been converted into a hospital. The 
town ambulance had taken care of our wounded and sick. 



j A ( The Silver Bacchanal 

They were already on their way to the castle, and I received 
orders to report for duty there with my platoon at three 
o'clock, after we had received our new uniforms and pay. 

The outfitting took place in the gymnasium, where we 
were handed fresh underclothing, uniforms, towels and soap. 
In the dressing room we stripped off our abominable rags. 
Then we stood in line, waiting our turn at the showers. 
From the shower room came eddies of popular songs and 
operatic arias Lord knows what mysterious relationship 
there is between showering and singing. At any rate, the 
songs roused our impatience to the point where it was al- 
most impossible to bear. 

At last my turn came. What a pleasure to let the power- 
ful jets of hot water play upon every part of my body and, as 
it were, wash the war out of me. And clean underwear 
afterward! The peaceful folk behind the lines know nothing 
of the profundities of cleanliness, of the marital bond be- 
tween the body and clean linen. 

I rolled up my jacket, which I had promised Eve as a relic, 
and went into one of the classrooms, which had been trans- 
formed into a barber shop. There, with flashing shears and 
glinting razors, the draft-rejected barbers of Drohitz awaited 
us. With what patriotic zeal they applied their shears to our 
heads and their razors to our faces, until the last traces of 
the front lines had vanished. In no time the classroom re- 
sembled a battlefield of fallen beards and shaggy locks. 

Freshly shorn and shaven, I went to the canteen, deter- 
mined finally to fill my stomach. But it was almost impos- 
sible to reach the counter. As soon as I took a step forward, 
someone whose mouth was already full shouted at me, 
"Don't push!" and elbowed me in the ribs. All the men de- 
fended their positions as if they were guarding our native 
soil from enemy attack. Even the gentlest soul would have 
lost patience under such circumstances. I gave one tough 
bird who was blocking my way a violent shove; he tripped 



i Arrival) j^ 

me up with his leg, and I stumbled and fell to my knees. 
Then fortune unexpectedly smiled on me. 

As I started to scramble to my feet, a fat sausage dangled 
in front of my nose, like a bayonet pointed at the floor. I 
looked up. The possessor of this sausage had his head tilted 
back and was emptying a bottle of lemonade down his gul- 
let. Seizing the opportunity, I surreptitiously nibbled half 
the sausage out of his hand. Then, as I rose to my feet again, 
a wave of soldiers who had just entered the room swept me 
plumb up against the counter. The metal counter top cut 
painfully into my middle, but an empty stomach expect- 
ing to be filled with food and drink was not going to grouse 
about that. Greedily, I stuffed myself till I could eat no 
more. 

Then I wondered how I was going to force my way 
through the crowd and back to the door. But as it turned 
out, this was my lucky hour, and I need not have worried 
about anything. A baby-faced private standing beside me at 
the counter suddenly fainted from the press. A ham sand- 
wich in one hand, he fell face forward into a plate of cream 
puffs. 

"Help, help!" cried several of the committee ladies who 
were dispensing refreshments. I helped them clear off the 
plates, laid Babyface out on the counter, swung over it, and 
carried the unconscious soldier through the kitchen into the 
corridor. There we sprinkled him with water until he came 
to. 

Now I had only to collect my pay. I went into the audi- 
torium. It was ages since I had seen any money, and when 
I entered I was hypnotized by the sight of bundles of bank- 
notes and rolls of coins. Until the crackling voices behind 
the piles of money began calling out names and numbers, I 
did not even notice the faces of the paymasters, who sat be- 
hind tables covered with long payroll lists. 

Payout went in alphabetical order. I watched all the A's, 



j (The Silver Bacchanal 

B's and C's leave the room beaming, with bulging pockets. 
When the D's came, it seemed to me they would never end. 
At last the paymaster called, "Ember, 317." The enormous 
sums of extra pay for front-line service handed to me almost 
sent me out of my mind. 

At the exit stood a table heaped with all sorts of wallets 
and change purses, gifts from the Drohitz Ladies' Club. I 
took two of them, as mementos. Then I rushed out to the 
school gate, where Eve was already waiting for me, and 
handed her the promised relic. 

"Then I'll see you tomorrow," she said. "Can't you really 
make it today?" 

"Unfortunately not my damned assignment," I replied, 
and hurried back to the schoolyard to collect my platoon. 

We were driven to the Castle Hospital. I reported for duty 
to the reception nurse in the foyer, and asked to be shown 
to Dr. Zitrom. The nurse telephoned upstairs, then reported 
that Dr. Zitrom was engaged in an important conference 
with the baroness and could not be disturbed at the mo- 
ment. We were to wait for him in the hospital wing on the 
first floor. 

We climbed up a wide staircase and entered a luxurious 
salon which formerly must have been the baroness' drawing 
room. Now, however, it was filled with all the utensils and 
apparatus of a modern hospital. When we entered, the place 
was already a scene of bustling activity. The patients lay in 
freshly made beds, and were being tended by such a horde 
of volunteer nurses that they were far outnumbered. 

Before I could say a word, one of the young assistants 
called out across the hall: "Head Nurse Jadwiga!" 

"One moment, I'll be right there," the head nurse replied. 
Following the direction of the voice, I saw a stately matron, 
hair tinged with gray, standing beside one of the beds and 
issuing instructions to a band of girls. She broke off and 
literally flew toward us. 



i Arrival) j-* 

"Welcome, welcome!" she exclaimed cordially, as though 
she had been expecting us all along. She apologized for hav- 
ing to return to her work right now, and promised to devote 
herself entirely to us later on. 

"Melanie," she said, turning to one of the assistant nurses, 
"will you take care of these good soldiers and show them to 
their places? I'll be right along." 

"Certainly," Melanie said, and to us: "Please follow me." 

Our casual glances as we crossed the room were enough to 
heap amazement upon amazement. Each of the beds was sur- 
rounded by eager nurses. Not one, but two were taking 
pulse and temperature, while others were moistening the 
patients 7 foreheads, rubbing their backs, arms and legs with 
alcohol, applying warming pads or ice bags to painful 
spots, and moving serving tables with orangeade, tea, sand- 
wiches and feathery pastries beside the beds. As soon as a 
patient asked for anything, three girls skipped off to bring it 
to him. A bevy of heads in pretty caps bent over sleeping 
patients, attentively watching their breathing. 

At the bedsides of the convalescents sat friendly gray 
ladies, amusing the patients with games of backgammon, 
pinochle, casino, dominoes, or reading aloud. What a world 
of difference there was between military and civilian treat- 
ment of the sick! 

"Here," Melanie said, opening the door to the next room, 
which was still unoccupied. "Seven!" she called in. 

With a hearty "Welcome!" a band of nurses rushed for- 
ward to meet us. They literally fell upon us, pulled and 
pushed us to the empty beds. 

All this took place so unexpectedly, and the nurses were so 
agile and firm, that before we knew what was happening we 
were all undressed and tucked into beds, surrounded by 
downy pillows and quilts that held us more securely than 
chains. And already the nurses' hands were gliding sooth- 
ingly over our faces and backs. No man could have resisted 
these overpowering caresses. Moreover, we medical corps- 



j ( The Silvei Bacchanal 

men were sick to death with tending others; what a pleasure 
it was to be tended ourselves for once. 

A serving table of dainties was rolled up. "Tea? Home- 
baked cake?" How could we be so surly as to refuse? 

"A game of dominoes or would you prefer a suspenseful 
detective story?" inquired a gray lady who had settled down 
beside my bed. 

Dominoes used to be my favorite game, and I had not 
played it for ages. And I've always liked a good story. I 
finally chose the latter. The story was a humdinger. The 
hunt for the unknown murderer held me so spellbound that 
I forgot everything else, even the war. I don't know why, but 
from the very first I was on the side of the hunted man. The 
crisis nearcd: they were on his track. If only they did not 
catch him! I held my breath and became so wrought up that 
I was forced to close my eyes. 

"Have you gone clean out of your mind, Adam?" I sud- 
denly heard a voice asking. It was the "still, small voice" that 
had so often made trouble for me at the front. "Here you 
are getting all steamed up over nonsense like this, when you 
ought to be thinking what Dr. Zitrom will say when he sees 
you in bed. Are you going to risk your next promotion, 
which ought to be coming along soon?" the voice went on. 
"You'd better heave your carcass out of this bed." 

Small and soft as the voice was, I feared it more than 
Commander Konrad's loudest roars. Now it rattled me so 
that I could no longer concentrate on the story. Forgetting 
all my concern for the criminal, I jumped out of bed, po- 
litely but vigorously resisted the flutterings of the gray lady, 
threw on my uniform and instantly became Platoon Leader 
Ember again. 

"Out of these beds; we're on duty here!" I bellowed at the 
others. 

The volunteer nurses were completely disconcerted. They 
simply stared, unable to understand the sudden change in 



i Arrival) Tn 

j.y 

the situation. "I regret the misunderstanding/' I said, turn- 
ing to them. "But we are not patients, we're medical corps- 
men ordered to report here for nursing duty." 

"Come on, speed it up!" I snapped at my men. "We 
haven't any time to lose." 

Within a few minutes all the others were dressed except 
Private Kalabas, who lolled in bed and, quite ignoring my 
order, continued his game of pinochle. "Kalabas!" I roared. 
"How about it? Get up, you lazy bum!" 

"Can't you wait a bit?" he retorted brashly. "Don't you 
see I'm in the middle of a game? Dr. Zitrom is still in con- 
ference, anyway. I'll finish the game, then I'll come." 

"You're on duty; you weren't ordered here to play cards!" 
I shouted at him. 

"Come now, be sensible, Ember. At the front I couldn't 
play pinochle, and here I'm not allowed to. Tell me, when 
is a poor devil of a medical aide supposed to play pinochle?" 

"I don't know or care. Your business is to obey, and with- 
out delay." 

"The game is almost done. I'll come as soon as I finish." 

"Don't spoil the poor man's pleasure," the gray lady 
pleaded with me. 

"I beg your pardon, my dear lady, but I cannot have any 
interference in official matters. I tell you for the last time," I 
went on to Kalabas, "either you get up at once or I'll report 
you for refusal to obey orders." 

"If you report me, you'll have to report yourself too. After 
all, you were lolling around in bed like the rest of us. So 
don't put on airs." 

His impertinence threw me into such a rage that I pre- 
ferred to put an end to the conversation then and there. 
"All right, let him be; he'll pay for this! Come!" I said to the 
others. They followed me. The nurses looked after us in 
stunned dismay. 

We returned to the reception hall and asked to see the 



2Q ( The Silver Bacchanal 

head nurse. "Good heavens," she exclaimed, utterly shat- 
tered when I told her that we had not come to the hospital 
to be tended, but to tend others. She apologized repeatedly 
for the misunderstanding and asked us to wait until Dr. Zit- 
rom was available. Meanwhile she offered us easy chairs and 
refreshments, which I politely declined. 

We stood around for more than half an hour, but still Dr. 
Zitrom's conference was not over. Kalabas had meanwhile 
joined us. 

"You see, Ember, I told you that there was no hurry." 

I saw that the others were giving him nods of agreement. 

"How long are we to stand around here like damn fools?" 
they grumbled. 

"We're on duty, and that's that," I snapped. 

"I won my game," that bastard Kalabas said, grinning at 
the others. 

After a while, loitering about and waiting began to get on 
my nerves. The busy head nurse was just flying by, followed 
by a swarm of her girls, and with Melanie at her side. I 
caught up with her. "Is there anything for us to do around 
here until Dr. Zitrom is free?" 

"Anything to do?" she repeated in surprise. She con- 
sidered a moment and then said, "Why yes ... Melanie!" 
she called. 

But Melanie had vanished. Apparently she wanted no 
more to do with us. 

"Adelaide" the head nurse turned to another assistant 
"please take charge of these gentlemen; show them around 
the hospital and explain our arrangements and apparatus." 

As we passed through the ward, Adelaide told us the num- 
ber of beds, patients and volunteer nurses. But when we 
came to the room with the still vacant beds, I stopped my 
men. 

"No, thanks, we have already seen that room," I remon- 
strated. 



i Arrival) 2J 

"Then we will see the lab," the nurse said, somewhat 
taken aback. There she pointed out all the various vials and 
flasks, the infusions and decoctions and boxes of powdered 
drugs. With pride she demonstrated their modern sterilizing 
apparatus and read off a list of new medicines which the 
municipal hospital had provided for the care of our sick 
soldiers. To me, the sight of all this stuff was absolutely 
staggering. At the front one simply had no idea of the re- 
sources available to a proper hospital nowadays. 

After the inspection tour was over and we arrived back at 
the main hall, we again stood around with nothing to do. 
In the long run it is unendurable just to stand and look on, 
especially after one has spent months of drilling and drudg- 
ing at the front. 

I wanted to give my men a good example, and repeatedly 
tried to go up to one of the beds in order to make myself use- 
ful. But it is easier to storm enemy machine-gun emplace- 
ments than to break through the bustle of volunteer nurses. 
When I realized that reaching the patients was out of the 
question, I waited for one of the nurses to pass me, in 
order to relieve her of whatever she was carrying and do 
whatever she intended to do. "Can I help you?" I asked. 
"I'll do it," she replied. It was always the same, with the first, 
the second, the third. "I'll do it," and they were gone. At 
last I followed a few nurses into a sterilization room. "Can 
I help you?" But every time they snatched whatever I had 
picked up out of my hand, with pretty adroitness, saying, 
"I'll do it." 

I had already given up when an unexpected opportunity 
seemed to present itself. One of the patients needed his 
bandage changed. The dressing cart had already been rolled 
up, and the nurses moved aside for a moment to leave room 
for it to be brought closer to the bed. I recognized the pa- 
tient as Sergeant Kovar. During our retreat I had pulled the 
fellow out from under a pile of corpses, loaded him into the 



22 (The Silver Bacchand 

ambulance, and bound up his wounds. In a word, I had 
saved his life. Naturally I felt called upon now to give him a 
fresh dressing. 

"Hello, Kovar," I exclaimed, sprinting through the clear 
passage to his bed. I leaned forward to change the dressing. 
But at once a dozen women's hands anticipated me. I 
reached for a fresh roll of bandage, but they snatched it away 
from me. I was not one to insist on my rights and so I 
yielded the field. It was just as well. With what gentleness 
these volunteer nurses applied a dressing: it was enough to 
shame not only me, but the surgeon general of the army. 
Moreover, Kovar, without a trace of gratitude, called out to 
me, who had saved his life: "You see that, Ember? What do 
you say to the way these nurses change a dressing? I didn't 
feel a thing. Keep your eyes peeled, you can learn something 
here." 

I stood there abashed. The only art in which I need 
learn nothing from volunteer nurses, or from anyone else for 
that matter, was that of burying the dead. And at that mo- 
ment there was no call for this. 

Dr. Zitrom's conference with the baroness seemed to be 
going on forever. When the head nurse came buzzing by 
again with her swarm of bees, I stopped her in her tracks. 
"Head Nurse Jadwiga," I called, "I received strict orders 
from Dr. Zitrom to report for duty here with my men at 
three o'clock. We have been sitting here more than an hour. 
I wish to be taken to Dr. Zitrom at once." 

The head nurse was obviously divided in her mind. On 
the one hand the baroness had made it clear that she was 
not to be disturbed; on the other hand she felt the awkward- 
ness of the situation and wanted to be rid of us. 

"Very well," she said finally, "if you insist. But it is on 
your responsibility." 

She sent one of the assistant nurses to show us to the 



I Arrival ) 23 

baroness' private apartment. I tapped at the door, timidly at 
first, then more vigorously. At the third knock the baroness 
appeared. I begged pardon for the disturbance and asked 
whether I could speak to Dr. Zitrom about an urgent official 
matter. 

"One moment," she said, opening the door to the next 
room. "Paul, one of your men wants to speak to you," I 
heard her call in. 

"I'm coming," the doctor's voice returned. Through the 
half-open door I caught a glimpse of Dr. Zitrom heaving 
himself from a couch strewn with pillows, in front of which 
stood a small table bearing coffee cups and cognac glasses. 
Swaying slightly, he approached the door. His face, ordinar- 
ily chalk-white, was flushed like poppies. 

"Ah, it's you, Ember what's the matter?" he said some- 
what irritably. 

I respectfully reminded him of his order and asked for our 
assignment. 

"Oh, yes, of course, the assignment," he growled. "I sup- 
pose our discussion will have to be suspended," he said to 
the baroness. He scarcely succeeded in hiding his annoyance. 

The baroness had a solution promptly. "Paul, why don't 
you give your men the afternoon off? After all, this is their 
first day in town, and the mayor has arranged a special 
market fair in honor of the troops. You may not know it, but 
a market fair in Drohitz is really worth seeing. And don't 
you trouble your head about the patients. Head Nurse }ad- 
wiga is fully competent to look after things for an afternoon. 
Besides, you will be right here on call if anything is urgently 
needed. The boys could use a little recreation, couldn't they, 
Paul?" 

The way she spoke his name, and the look she gave him 
under her long eyelashes, decided the issue. 

"Of course, I'm right on the spot if anything should come 
up," he murmured. He turned to me. "Very well then, your 



2 A ( The Silver Bacchanal 

platoon may take the afternoon off." 

I thanked him, clicked my heels and was about to go 
when he called me back. The mayor had appointed this eve- 
ning for a banquet in honor of the officers, and Dr. Zitrom 
would have to represent the medical corps. He ordered me 
to be back in time to assume night duties in the hospital 
during his absence. "No later than seven, Ember. Clear?" 

"Yes, sir; perfectly, sir." 

When I told my men the good news, they went wild. 
Forgetting that they were in a hospital, they raised such a 
cheer that the nurses were appalled at the disturbance. But 
they mellowed quickly when they heard that we were leav- 
ing. They warmly recommended the Drohitz fair and gave 
us all kinds of good advice. Head Nurse Jadwiga even pro- 
vided us with a car to speed us on our way. 

As soon as we entered town, we were carried along by the 
throng to the market place. This big square, in the center 
of Drohitz, was the heart of the city; to and from it the 
streets and lanes carried the city's life like the veins and 
arteries of the body. And today was the first big fair since the 
war began. The horde of troops let loose on the town, 
hungry to buy things, flaunting big bankrolls, acted like a 
blood transfusion, reviving the commercial spirit of Drohitz, 
which had been almost choked by the war. 

Ever since my childhood I have been charmed by fairs. 
But never before had I seen anything like the wild tumult 
of this market and the colorful display of goods. One 
wooden booth stood jammed up against the next, one stand 
beside the other. All the walls were festooned with mer- 
chandise, all the shelves and counters heaped with wares. 
One could barely walk among the bales, sacks, baskets and 
bottles massed on the ground. The faces of the dealers and 
peddlers shone like suns risen behind mountain chains of 
merchandise. And what attention was lavished on the cus- 



I Arrival ) 2 c 

tomers! Before the war the customer had been the idol of 
Drohitz merchants. Then he had been overshadowed by the 
heroes of the army communiques. Now, however, as a result 
of our being quartered here, customer and hero had become 
one and the same. Hence the patriotic watchword of the 
day everything for the army! harmonized with the innate 
commercial spirit of the Drohitzers. 

Only the wooing of lovers is as rich in endearments, signi- 
ficant nuances, sly implications and charged language as the 
courting of buyers that went on in this market place. Not 
only the professional dealers and peddlers, but private per- 
sons also, old ladies and aged gentlemen in particular, evi- 
dently felt it to be their patriotic duty to fetch out, dust off, 
air and offer for sale the treasures they had kept stowed away 
in attics or shut up in chests and cupboards. Everything that 
could be spared in all of Drohitz was on display and for sale. 

After life in the field, where the world of things was 
limited to objects necessary for killing or enduring, and 
where a man possessed nothing beside his weapons, uniform, 
mess kit and canteen, it was overpowering merely to behold 
such an abundance of objects. Added to that was the marvel 
that one need merely thrust his hand into his pocket and 
any of the things on the counters and shelves was his, his 
very own! The craving for possession burst forth with ele- 
mental force: to buy something, no matter what: things to 
eat, things to carry, things one had once owned and things 
one had never had and always wished for, things one needed 
and purely luxury items, souvenirs, gifts, trivia and baubles. 

To save the hero-customers the trouble of carrying their 
acquisitions, the merchants had organized a band of boys 
with carts, who for a small sum promptly transported the 
purchased goods to the soldiers' quarters. I hired one of these 
carriers and started on my round. 

Intoxicated by plenty, I went no, I reeled from one 
booth to the next. First I bought a whole salami, then two 



2<5 ( The Si h er Bacchanal 

pounds of chocolate, a package of letter paper bordered with 
forget-me-nots, and two hand-embroidered handkerchiefs. 
At the next stand I was negotiating for shoe polish, sewing 
needles and several spools of thread when my frenzied eyes 
caught sight of a porcelain figurine, a Chinese with a wag- 
gling head. A porcelain Chinese exactly like the one who 
had once rocked his head in Aunt Asta's china closet. As I 
closed the deal for the Chinese, I became intrigued by two 
tiny porcelain slippers, a miniature beer barrel, and six blue- 
and-white angels which were disposed around the Chinese. 
In the old days, I had always laughed at that china closet of 
my aunt's with its assemblage of bric-a-brac. But now 
that I had returned from the barren exile of a thingless 
world, everything appeared in a new light. The glory in use- 
less objects overwhelmed me. Slippers, angels, whatever else 
struck my fancy I had them all wrapped up for me. 

The more I bought, the more I craved. What a heady sen- 
sation of desire and power buying conveys. Even the hag- 
gling took on the quality of love-talk, and paying was some- 
thing absolutely voluptuous. I bought indiscriminately what- 
ever caught my eye, and there was only one moment when 
something like common sense gained ascendancy. 

I was just buying some violet soap, hand lotion and 
bath salts when the booth keeper also tried to fix me up with 
a jar of hair pomade. 'The last I have left; nothing like this 
stuff will be available again for a long time. Better stock up. 
Shall I put it in with the rest?" he simpered. 

If only he had not used the words "for a long time" and 
"stock up." For these words gave me a sharp turn. I had al- 
ready acquiesced, then shook my head again. And as always 
during such attacks of ambivalent feelings, I heard an 
inner voice. "Have you gone crazy, hoarding imported hair 
oil? How long do you think you're going to be here for the 
regrouping? And then back to the front, where you freeze, 
hunger and thirst, with or without sleeked hair. Throwing 



i Arrival ) 

away your pay for all this trash! A fellow like you who knows 
by trade how quickly it's all over for a man at the front? 
What idiocy!" 

I rarely listened to the voice of reason, and I seldom let it 
spoil any of my pleasures. Now that it dragged my military 
metier into the discussion, it was child's play to rebut it. For 
if anything challenges the superiority of logical arguments, 
it is death, which upsets the logic of life, makes all things 
questionable, the reasonable unreasonable and vice versa. 

"Granted," I replied, "that we will be staying here only a 
few days and then will have to return to the front. Granted 
even that out there the same fate awaits me as all the others, 
and that I shall serve out the rest of my stint as a corpse. 
Just for that very reason I should take my pleasure while the 
taking is good. For if these few days here are the sum of life, 
and if as a corpse I cannot sleek my hair and enjoy the 
Chinese figure's waggling head, what's the use of hanging 
on to my bankbook? To amass interest throughout eternity?" 

"Pack up the pomade!" I told the dealer. And with no 
more ado I bought a hundred-year calendar, a kind of farm- 
er's almanac so prescient as to predict the next war, a tie pin, 
a crock of whipped honey, marinated herring, and a monocle 
something I'd always hankered for. 

I sent my boy off to the castle with all my treasures, and 
was just about to leave the market when someone touched 
my arm discreetly. 

"May I show you something very special, Captain?" a 
low voice asked. I hadn't earned the title, but it would have 
been ridiculous to protest it. So I left it at that and turned 
toward an elderly lady who now produced a silver-plated 
snuffbox from her purse. With trembling fingers she pointed 
out the engraved date: 1866. "A family heirloom," she said. 
"I would have wanted to leave it to my son, but he has 
fallen in battle. I can see that you would appreciate such a 
thing, Captain." 



2 (The Silver Bacchanal 

How could I possibly belie the confidence of such a nice 
old lady? "How much?" I asked. 

"Oh," she stammered in embarrassment. "This is the first 
time I have ever sold anything. I know you are a connois- 
seur, Captain, and can judge best what it is worth." 

This was no time to be petty toward an old mother whose 
son had fallen while I was still living. So I pressed several 
large bills into her hand. Touched by my generosity, she pre- 
sented me with a brooch "for your fiancee." It was obviously 
impossible to take a gift from an impoverished old lady, so I 
handed her two more bills. She refused them at first, but 
was finally prevailed on to take them. 



Amid all this furor of buying, I did not notice how quickly 
time passed. When I left the market place, Main Street sud- 
denly blazed before me, brimming with light. For a moment 
this produced such a shock that I automatically ducked, 
closed my eyes and screamed. The terror of the front, where 
such a sudden flare of light always meant exploding shells 
and death-dealing rockets, was still in my bones. And yet 
here I was in the midst of a carefree crowd promenading the 
sidewalks under the pleasant light of the street lamps. 

It was Corso time; here, between six and seven o'clock, 
the Drohitzers met every evening for a sociable stroll. 
Never had I enjoyed a promenade so thoroughly. What bliss 
was in this idle sauntering to the body which for so long had 
known nothing but crouching, lugging and standing at atten- 
tion. What a stimulating sensation to have women and girls 
brush past one on both sides, and to feel even as one avoided 
colliding with them the light contact of arms, shoulders and 
hips. And the stirring scent of ash-blond and chestnut- 
brown hair which the evening breeze wafted to one's nostrils. 
This was the life. 

Wherever I looked I saw another pretty face, now three- 



i Arrival) 2O 

quarter, now profile, now smiling, now provocative. And 
then, in the shifting current of faces, to encounter here and 
there one that had already delighted me before, to catch an 
already familiar smile and respond to it. Praise be to the 
small town, which invented the evening Corso. Truly, only 
small-town people knew that the Creator meant the bustle 
of the day to fade slowly and affably away in the evening. 
And so they introduced this stroll along the promenade. 

Like everything else happening in Drohitz today, the eve- 
ning Corso had a special quality. In honor of the soldiery the 
women and girls were wearing their Sunday best. And the 
prickling excitement and coquetry usually so well dissembled 
in this prim little town came bluntly to light, as a kind of 
patriotic tribute to the heroes. 

Amid the ripples of ladies surged the animated whispers 
of the men in uniform: "Man, has she got the stuff . . ." 
"Take a look at that one . . ." "What legs . . ." The mur- 
muring ran from one end of the main street to the other. The 
ladies of Drohitz responded with blushes of shyness and 
smiles of pleasure, the mothers smiling with no less mirth 
than the daughters who promenaded under their supervision. 
Groups of teen-age girls walked arm in arm, by threes and 
fours, making a game of blocking the soldiers' way. Then 
they would break apart, and the soldiers passing through 
their ranks repaid them with appreciative looks and remarks. 
Some girls dropped all reserve in celebration of the day, re- 
plying with a nudge or nod, answering unequivocal hints 
with equally direct invitations. 

At first I kept hoping to meet Eve on the Corso. I scanned 
the scene until my eyes ached, trying to discover in the 
throng her black-cherry eyes and plum breasts. But there 
were too many other pretty faces and graceful figures, and at 
last I gave up. A chubby girl whom I had brushed past and 
distinctly "made contact" with several times had just re- 
sponded to my "Beg pardon" with a cordial "Why, certainly." 



3Q (The Silver Bacchanal 

A few steps farther on, she parted from her girl friend and 
paused in front of a jeweler's shop. She turned her head to- 
ward me as she entered and nodded beckoningly. Naturally, 
I followed her in. She sent the saleswoman to the rear for 
something that I might have the opportunity to introduce 
myself. 

"Permit me, dear lady." 

"Gladly/' she said smilingly, holding out her hand for me 
to kiss. 

Meanwhile the saleswoman had returned with a bracelet, 
and while the lady paid for it, I happened to notice the clock 
on the wall. 

"Almost seven, good Lord!" I exclaimed in alarm, and tore 
out of the shop without even bidding her goodbye. 



I need not have been afraid of being late. This time I had 
to wait even longer outside the baroness' apartment before 
anyone answered my knock. At last Dr. Zitrom came to the 
door. He looked rather disarrayed. 

"You here again, Ember?" he asked crossly. 

I respectfully reminded him that I had come to relieve 
him so that he could attend the mayor's banquet. 

"Impossible, altogether impossible," he murmured, more 
to himself than to me. "I mean, I cannot possibly leave our 
sick and wounded men without the supervision of the chief 
medical officer on their first night in a strange city. I must be 
within call in case anything should come up. Of course, the 
banquet. Damn it all, what am I going to . . ." He con- 
sidered for a while. Suddenly his face brightened and he 
thrust his forefinger into my chest. "I have it! You will repre- 
sent our medical section at the banquet in my place. You'll 
enjoy that, won't you, Ember?" 

"All right," I said uncertainly, "but how am I to explain 
your absence?" 



i Arrival ) 

He obviously wanted to speed me on my way. "Simply say 
that I was unfortunately prevented from attending because 
of official matters that came up at the last moment. Clear, 
Ember?" 

"Yes, sir; very clear, sir. I shall do my best to be a credit 
to our company/' I replied, saluted and took my leave. 

The baroness certainly has her hooks into Zitrom, I mused. 
Would she ever let him out of her boudoir again? Not so 
long as we were stationed here in Drohitz, at any rate. And 
couldn't this play hob with our hospital duties? Well, after 
all, it was not my business to worry about that. 



What a day this had been for me. In the morning still a 
living corpse among other living corpses; then Eve's orchard 
on the parade ground; the bounty of the market place; the 
womenfolk at the evening promenade; and now, to round it 
all off, a gala dinner at the mayor's. 

I hurried to my room to spruce up. What elegance! Really, 
this town was a place to live! Especially after I had a chance 
to unpack and set up all my treasures from the market. Of 
course there was no time for that now, but at least I would 
place the Chinese on my night table, so that his waggly head 
would greet me when I returned home from the banquet. 

The first package I opened contained the salami. I reached 
for the next toilet articles and the farmer's almanac. But I 
had my heart set on finding the Chinese, and ripped open 
package after package. Where the devil was that Chinese 
hiding? Good Lord, it was already half past eight. I had to 
give up the search. Leaving a chaos of torn bags and half- 
opened parcels behind me, I raced downstairs. 

Luckily, one of the ambulances was standing ready in the 
yard. "Orders from Dr. Zitrom to the casino, fast," I 
snapped, leaping in. 

The driver sped off, and in no time we reached the ca- 



32 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

sino. Springing from his seat, the driver started to unfasten 

the stretcher. 

"Never mind that/' I said. "You can drive back now." 
"Oh, I see, a private tour/' he grinned, shaking his head. 

I didn't bother to set him straight. 



II 

The Banquet 



w. 



hen I entered, a gentleman greeted me: "Mu- 
nicipal Chief of Protocol Magados," he introduced him- 
self. He need not have; his occupation was written on his 
face, with the narrow forehead like the margin of a docu- 
ment, with the features beneath it like scribbled memos and 
doodlings. He held a guest list in his hand. "Name, please/' 

"Adam Ember of Medical Company 317, representing 
Chief Medical Officer Zitrom who has been detained by 
official duties." 

Magados made a little check on his list and led me into 
the hall. 

The evening was already in full swing. Officers of varied 
ranks and regiments, together with city functionaries, stood 
around a serving table laden with canapes and drinks. To 
judge by the lively temper of the company, a good many 
glasses must already have been emptied. 

I looked around but could discover no familiar faces. 
Commander Konrad, whom I had expected to meet here, 
was nowhere in sight. He, too, it would seem, had been un- 
able to get away, perhaps for reasons similar to Dr. Zitrom's. 

I was received as if I were Dr. Zitrom himself. A bemed- 
aled officer the highest ranking one there bore down upon 



IA ( The Silver Bacchanal 

me. At first I shrank back in alarm. He had a face like a 
planned offensive, a beetling, aggressive brow, a hooked nose 
like a drawn saber, and a furrowed skin like war-torn terrain. 

"Senior Commander Manns teuf el! Cordial greetings!" he 
snarled amiably, and drew me over to the table. There I was 
plied with drinks left and right; I had no sooner finished one 
glass when another was filled for me. 

"The medical corps must not lag behind!" a middle-aged 
regimental doctor remarked, and urged me to drink a toast 
with him. 

"Enough, enough," I pleaded when they filled my glass 
again. "I've surely caught up with you by now!" And in order 
to escape another barrage of glasses, I started to sing a gay 
song I remembered from my student days. 

She said I could escort her 

So I caught her and I taught her 

What any Eva's daughter 

Likes to know but hadn't oughter. 

"Encore, encore!" they cried, clapping for all they were 
worth. The chief of protocol beckoned to the gypsy violinist, 
who picked up the melody by ear and accompanied me. At 
the words "Likes to know but hadn't oughter," the whole 
company chimed in. 

A few minutes later the double doors to the big dining 
hall were thrown open. 

"Dinner is served!" the chief of protocol announced. 

Cheerily humming my tune, we entered the hall. At the 
head of the festive board the mayor and the senior com- 
mander took their places. On either side, in order of their 
ranks and dignities, were seated the officers and aldermen. 
While a host of liveried waiters began serving, the band 
played. 

The table was covered with a damask cloth and sparkled 



ii The Banquet ) - ^ 

with silver, fine china, cut crystal and handsome flower ar- 
rangements. A state dinner could not have been organized 
more munificently. The greatest attraction of all was the re- 
markable menu, in which the Drohitzers had so eloquently 
expressed their patriotic spirit. Every product of our native 
land, all the culinary delights of animal husbandry, agricul- 
ture and the fisheries were served here in the various modes 
in which our provinces specialized. And the drinks? Not only 
all the wine regions but all the vintages were represented. 
And while our palates savored the finest morsels, while the 
nation's history of the past eight years flowed down our 
throats, our ears rang with the many moods of our nation 
expressed in music. The band played alternately gay and 
sentimental melodies, playful, tender, passionate and stirring 
tunes, jolly medleys of love and marching songs. 

At the height of the gala dinner, a large steer from Grivan, 
roasted on a spit, was brought in. Grivan steers were the 
pride of our Department of Animal Husbandry. Along with 
the roast, the moment for the official speech-making had ar- 
rived. 

Mayor Gospoda arose first. Once again he lauded his 
heroic guests in the name of the city, and emptied his glass 
to the health of the victorious army. The aldermen followed 
his example, while the band played fanfare after fanfare. 
Then came the senior commander's turn to speak for the 
army, acknowledge the mayor's hospitality and drink to the 
health of Drohitz. Whereupon the army officers all jumped 
to their feet and drained their glasses. Toast followed toast, 
with cheers after each toast. Before long everyone had toasted 
everyone else, and still it went on. 

I don't know what came over me all of a sudden. I had 
been contentedly chewing and swilling with the rest. Then, 
from one moment to the next, as I looked around, the officers 
and aldermen had vanished and in their places sat the dead 
of Hill 31-7. The damask tablecloth became a shroud, the 



3 ( The Stiver Bacchanal 

glittering dishes broken shards, and instead of food the dead 
were shoveling muddy earth into their mouths. 

At the head of the table two dead speakers rose, alternately 
reviling the army as "abject murderers" and the patriotic city 
folk as "war profiteers." Their speeches completed, they 
drank to one another, pledging, "Here is to hell," touching 
skulls instead of glasses and drinking blood instead of wine. 
The other dead men rose likewise from their places and 
toasted one another. After each toast, instead of a fanfare, 
there sounded the rattle of skeleton chains. Then I realized 
to my horror that the dead men were turning to me. 

"Ember, speak!" they cried. And when I hesitated, they 
became more insistent. "Ember, have you forgotten us?" 
they roared into my ears. "Speak, Ember, speak!" They 
were about to fall upon me, and I knew they would do me 
harm unless I met their demand. 

"May I have the floor?" I asked, rising. Even as I spoke, 
the hallucinations disappeared. The officers and leading citi- 
zens were back in their places. "This glass to the memory of 
our dead comrades who cannot spend this evening with us!" 
I cried. All had risen and raised their glasses. I would have 
left it at that, if some drunken officers had not bellowed, 
"Long life to them!" 

The unseemliness of this vexed me. "To the memory of 
those," I continued, "whom this murderous war has assigned 
to underground commands, and who are moldering in their 
muddy graves while we here gorge ourselves." Determined 
to obtain for the dead the respect they deserved, I talked my- 
self into such a frenzy that I conjured up in the banquet hall 
all the horrors I had witnessed as a gravedigger at the front. 

My audience grew visibly impatient. They cleared their 
throats, shuffled their feet and threw angry looks at me. 
When I paused for breath, I heard a lieutenant whisper to 
his neighbor, "Must we sit through a funeral oration? That 
bastard seems to be dead-drunk." 



ii The Banquet) 2^ 

I could feel myself that it was in poor taste to remember 
the dead at such length during so gay a dinner. But I could 
not help myself. I was scared stiff that unless I granted the 
dead their full due, they might return again, and I would 
have to stay longer with them, perhaps forever. 

Even after T had finished my funeral oration and all had 1 
resumed their seats, the dismal mood lasted for a while. The 
guests squirmed in their seats and could think of nothing to 
say. The spell was not broken until a young lieutenant raised 
his glass and cried, "But now let us drink to us who are still 
living!" At this the repressed gaiety burst forth more noisily 
than ever. Glasses were drained to the last drop, filled and 
emptied again, and the party grew wilder and wilder. 

I felt shut out from the fun. Everyone talked, but no one 
spoke to me. They behaved as if I did not exist. And even 
the waiters, who were now serving champagne, passed me by 
as if instructed to. Then all rose from table and stood around 
in groups, but no one asked me to join them. I was simply 
left behind at table. After my initial success I was naturally 
hurt, and decided to regain my popularity. 

I began to sing. I struck up a song whose stanzas began 
properly enough but invariably ended with smutty rhymes. 
At first the others hardly listened, but when one altogether 
unexpected obscene rhyme came in, they dropped their re- 
serve and burst into laughter. My faux pas was forgiven and 
forgotten. They clustered around me once again. The waiter 
filled my glass, the gypsy set his bow to the strings, and 
everyone sang along with me, laughing uproariously the 
while. I fetched song after song out of my memory, and my 
prestige grew from song to song. 

"A chap like you does honor to our medical corps," the 
doctor said, patting me on the back and blinking his little 
green eyes at me from behind his glasses. 

"I'll apply for your transfer to the Thirty-eighth," a major 
exclaimed. 



zg (The Silver Bacchanal 

"Beg pardon, Major Barbar, he's going to be transferred 
to our Eighty-sixth/ 7 someone interrupted. 

"Pay no attention to them/' a rather tipsy brigadier gen- 
eral urged me. "If you want a transfer to our Fifty-fifth, I'll 
see that you get your promotion to lieutenant in no time. I 
have connections." 

It was almost incredible, the enthusiasm these obscene 
ditties aroused among the officers and the staid town offi- 
cials. All sang in unison, beating time with their fists on the 
table. Another glass and another song, another song and 
another glass! 

At times the master of ceremonies interrupted their bel- 
lowings to remind the company of the grand and solemn 
cause in which army and civilian authorities were here so 
festively united. "To our country and victory!" he would cry, 
raising his glass. Whereupon all would shout in response: 
"To our country and victory!" and go back to their singing. 

The mayor gripped my arm. "Ember, let's have that song 
again, the one I liked so much." When I did not immedi- 
ately guess which one he meant, he prompted: "So I caught 
her and I taught her." He borrowed the gypsy's violin to ac- 
company me himself. Although he played a bit out of tune, 
everyone applauded heartily: "First-rate, first-rate, Your 
Honor!" 

"Oh, come, come," he exclaimed. "Why the ceremony? 
Tour Honor' indeed! Just call me by my nickname, Albi!" 

"Three cheers for Albi!" And once the mayor's title was 
dropped, all the other ranks and titles tumbled like ninepins 
when a bowler has made a full strike. Everyone began calling 
everyone else by first names and pet names. "Nicki! Grutschi! 
Soldi! Dudu! Mausi!" rang through the hall. All reserve dis- 
appeared. Everyone exchanged slaps on the back, pats on the 
head and pokes in the pit of the stomach. 



ii The Banquet) 

The gaiety rose to higher and higher pitch. Everyone sang 
at the top of his voice, drank till he could hold no more, and 
flung the empty glasses to the floor with a crash. Everyone 
babbled, laughed and shouted all at once. Soon no one was 
listening to anyone else, no one knew what he himself was 
saying, and before long nothing was left but the mother 
tongue of drinking parties, a senseless stammering and yam- 
mering: "Say you . . . remember . . . ha-ha-ha . . ." 

Suddenly Albi jumped on the table top and demonstrated 
the native hopsa-hopsa dance. He hopped and jumped from 
one leg to another, pounding his thighs the while and yodel- 
ing merrily. From time to time he leaped high in the air, 
clapping knees and heels together before he landed on the 
table again. Everything about him bounced: head, cheeks, 
shoulders and paunch; even his frock coat rollicked as if it 
were about to bounce away. 

He already looked thoroughly done in. His rubicund face 
had turned beet-red, and the veins of his temples bulged 
like thick cords. His hair, dank with sweat, drooped over his 
forehead. Nevertheless, he would not stop. 

His solemn welcoming address was still ringing in my 
ears. I saw him standing so majestically on the platform at 
the parade ground, in his closely buttoned tail coat, freshly 
starched shirt front and neatly knotted black tie. He had 
looked the very essence of a dignity that was embedded 
firmly in his fleshy eye-sacs, sustained by his broad shoulders 
and massive build. Was it possible that the mayor of the 
parade ground and this Albi capering on the table were 
really one and the same person? His coat had burst open; 
his crushed shirt front bulged out, and his tie pranced wildly 
around at the nape of his neck. And with eye-pouches, shoul- 
ders and belly bouncing so frenetically, all dignity had lost 
its foothold. 

Inspired by Albi's capers, officers and aldermen had formed 
a ring and were hopping around the table in a similar di- 



JQ (The Silver Bacchanal 

sheveled state. In the midst of the wildest frenzy the chief of 
protocol flung up his arms, signaling us to stop, "For our 
coun ... co ..." he stammered, but before he could finish 
the word he fell forward on his face. We paused only for a 
moment. Two waiters dragged him off to one side, and we 
continued more wildly than before. 

We were all dripping with perspiration. Abruptly, Albi 
threw off his coat and the others followed his example. Now 
all the company hopped around in shirt sleeves, and every- 
thing that had been hidden under the dinner coats and 
uniforms came to light. The world had never yet seen such a 
collection of crumpled shirts and collars and soaked under- 
shirts as the hopping town and jumping army now dis- 
played. Soon we threw off our sopping shirts and undershirts 
also, and continued to dance with naked chests streaming 
with sweat. From round to round the tempo increased. 

Dr. Kapra, the regimental doctor, could scarcely catch 
his breath, and yet he did not want to lag behind his younger 
comrades. The town officials, however, gradually gave up. 
One after another they stole away as inconspicuously as pos- 
sible, until only Mardi, the senior alderman, and the mayor 
remained behind with the officers. At last almost all were out 
of breath, and their legs, too, would no longer move. The 
hopping had degenerated into a bobbing flexing of the legs 
in one and the same spot. Many were so weary they could 
scarcely keep their eyes open. Then, suddenly, the cry rang 
out: "Let's go to the girls." Impossible to say who had spoken 
first, for at once all took up the cry. Instantly the whole com- 
pany revived, were as full of vim as they had been at the 
beginning of the evening. 

"Hey, Albi, is there a decent bordello in Drohitz?" they 
asked the mayor. 

"Is there!" Albi snorted, jumping briskly down from the 
table. "Not another town in the province has anything like 
our Mashinka!" he boasted. "Isn't that so, Mardi? Folks come 



ii The Banquet) ,^ 

from as far as Sambor. You'll see things that will make your 
eyes pop. Come on, I'll show you the way." He instantly 
thought better of this. "No, it won't do. As mayor I simply 
can't . . . And if Eulalia should ever . . . Out of the ques- 
tion." 

"Hey, Albi, don't be a spoilsport; there'll never be another 
night like tonight," we urged him from all sides. 

"I'll give you a guide, but I just can't do it myself. You 
tell them how it is, Mardi," he appealed to the alderman. 

It seemed that Albi was a widower and lived under the 
domination of his sister. But the officers kept after him. 
"No one will ever find out," the senior commander pleaded. 
"It will remain strictly between us, the army and the town. 
Won't it, Mardi?" The alderman nodded agreement. "You 
can't refuse to do something for the army." 

"I'll discuss it with Mardi," he said at last. The two with- 
drew to a corner and whispered for a while. Albi returned. 
"The city council has decided that the city will join the 
army," he announced with mock solemnity. 

"Three cheers for the city, three cheers for the mayor!" 
everyone shouted in glee. 

"One moment." He waved his hand for silence. "I'll 
guide you and show you the whole works, but then you 
must excuse me. Agreed?" 

"Agreed." 

We took Albi and Mardi between us and tramped across 
the hall, roaring: "To the girls, to the girls!" 

The noise aroused the master of ceremonies from his 
drunken stupor. At the sight of the row of marchers, he 
sprang to his feet, crying: "For country and flag!" 

"Shut up!" the senior commander barked at him. He 
turned to Albi and whispered, "Make sure we get rid of this 
pain in the neck." 

"Muschi, you can go home," Albi said. And when the 
master of ceremonies continued to stand unwillingly, pull- 



, 2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

ing a long face, Albi ordered him in his official tone: "Chief 
of Protocol Magados, your presence is no longer required/' 

"Perhaps Your Honor may need me after all," Magados 
demurred. 

"For the rest of the evening we will manage without a 
master of ceremonies, I think." The mayor sportively dis- 
missed him. 

We had to clean ourselves up a bit. Everyone made for the 
washrooms, where the towels gave out and we used napkins 
instead. Then we donned shirts and coats again. The waiters 
served strong black coffee and brought in tubs of cracked 
ice so that we could cool our temples. 

"Another cup," the mayor demanded, to sober himself up 
completely. But the cup dropped from his hand, and the 
black brew flowed over his shirt front. "Well, now I look a 
sight," he grumbled. Luckily one of the waiters was about 
his size, and lent him his shirt. We were ready to go at last. 



Ill 

To the Girls 



W 

T f e v 



'e went down the back stairs, in order to leave 
the casino as inconspicuously as possible. The mayor led us 
through a number of dark, winding alleys. Now and then 
he turned around to warn us against making noise. On tiptoe, 
we crept like thieves through the old part of the city. "Sh, 
sh . . ." he repeated again and again. Then he stumbled 
against a tree and lost his balance. "Mardi," he exclaimed 
in alarm. But Mardi was nowhere in sight. "What a namby- 
pamby," Albi scoffed. "He's ducked out on us." We got him 
to his feet again. Fortunately, the commotion seemed not 
to have aroused anyone. 

At last we emerged from the tangle of alleys and were able 
to move somewhat more freely. It was a good distance to the 
red-light district, which lay on the outer edge of the town, 
near the river. We passed factories, tenements, empty lots 
and warehouses. At last the first red lanterns appeared. Sev- 
eral of the officers quickened their pace. 

'Take it easy," the mayor admonished. "The red lights 
won't run away from you." 

Once within the Mashinka, we could scarcely be restrained. 
House after house had a red lantern over its door. From some 
of the houses tantalizing music, singing and babbling of 



^ v ( The Silver Bacchanal 

voices reached the street, even though the blinds were down. 
At others the windows were open and half-dressed girls leaned 
over the sills, beckoning to us. Through open doors we could 
see dimly lit corridors down which the figures of girls flitted. 
Soldiers were loitering in front of many of the houses, trying 
to choose. Here and there a door was noisily opened. Soldiers 
came out, others entered; there was a steady coming and 
going. 

We stopped repeatedly, for any house would have suited 
us; but the mayor always pulled us along. "No," he advised 
us, "that place is nothing for gentlemen. The place I'm 
taking you is the best we have in Drohitz." And as our im- 
patience rose, he placated us: "Not much further to go now. 
You won't regret it." 

We seemed almost to have reached the end of the 
Mashinka. Only a few random red lanterns could now be 
seen. At last the mayor stopped in front of a two-story house 
situated directly on the river. Outwardly it was different from 
all the others; it resembled a villa with a large front garden. 
There were heavy drapes at the windows and the carved 
door was locked. The mayor knocked, whereupon a voice 
from inside asked for the password. Albi could not remem- 
ber it. 

"HI call Madame," the voice said. 

While we waited, I saw by the glow of the red lantern a 
sign in large letters: SILVER HALL. Why, this was the very 
place Ignaz had told me about when we marched together 
through the mud! I remembered his juicy description of a 
big blonde so voluminous that her bosom could accommo- 
date a whole army. Mountains of mud and heaps of corpses 
had since obscured the image, but that name, "Silver Hall," 
like a magic formula summoned up out of mud and cadavers 
that blonde's swelling bosom. I pictured her vividly; only her 
name still escaped me. 

The door opened, framing a distinguished-looking elderly 



in To the Girh ) . ^ 

lady who wore a black silk shawl around her shoulders. 
"What a pleasure, Your Honor," she exclaimed, hastily pat- 
ting her hair. She drew the shawl tighter around her shoulders 
and begged us to step in. 

"For myself I must say thank you, no, Madame Renoir," 
the mayor replied. "I merely wished to conduct our guests 
of honor, the officers of our noble army, here, to our famous 
Silver Hall. I am sure your house will do everything to satisfy 
our guests." 

"But, sir, you will certainly do me the honor of having one 
little glass in my house." 

"Of course, Albi, come in for a little glass," the senior 
commander urged him. 

"Very well, one little glass," the mayor consented. 

We were about to enter when an elderly roue in an astra- 
khan-collared paletot slipped by us. The mayor shrank back. 
"Who is that?" he asked anxiously. 

"Just a visitor from Sambor," Madame assured him. 

"Is there anyone else here?" he asked suspiciously. 

"Only a few officers upstairs. Have no fear, Your Honor; 
I shall arrange things so that you gentlemen will be undis- 
turbed in the Silver Hall. May I ask you to wait here for a 
moment." She returned shortly. "The coast is clear," she said. 
"Please follow me." 

She led us down a passway. "Here," she said, opening a 
door. We stood dazzled at the entrance. Before us, like a 
mirage, lay a room that seemed to stretch on endlessly. Thou- 
sands of crystal chandeliers flooded it with a glittering sea of 
light. Countless marble tables, silver-painted chairs and red 
plush sofas stood scattered about, and a numberless horde 
of slender and ample, blond, black, brunette and red-haired 
girls were strolling back and forth. Such was our wonderment 
that Madame had to ask us twice to follow her. 

Only after we had entered the room and saw ourselves 
multiplied a thousandfold did we realize that the boundless- 



A 6 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

ness of the room, the myriad lights, women and pieces of 
furniture, were an optical illusion. All the walls were covered 
from floor to ceiling with glittering mirrors which reflected 
one another and the objects inside the room endlessly. 

It was a bit of a shock at first to find myself confronted by 
a whole army of mirror images of myself, and I made all 
kinds of grimaces, deliberately distorting my reflections into 
comical caricatures, to overcome my jolt. 

Only after we had sat down at one of the marble tables 
did I appreciate the cunning cleverness of the mirror-magic. 
At a gesture from Madame, the girls came sauntering toward 
us in their low-cut evening dresses. Immediately my discom- 
fort changed into a sexual excitement unlike anything I had 
ever experienced before. For the sight I beheld is not ordi- 
narily granted to mortal eyes. What an orgy of voyeuristic 
pleasure to see a female form from all sides at once, to caress 
with the eyes all the contours, every line, every swelling curve, 
every tender hollow and each multiplied a thousand times 
over. 

A breath-taking lust overcame me. If it were possible I 
would have seized all these girls at once, engaged in a single 
amorous act with them and all their mirror images. All the 
more sobering were the formal introductions to Miss So-and- 
So and Miss So-and-So, and the maidenly demureness with 
which they greeted us. They contrived to create an atmos- 
phere which checked even the wildest craving. Social eti- 
quette went so far that the senior commander had to invite 
the girls formally to sit at our table. And with what respecta- 
bility they behaved after they sat down the residents of a 
Swiss boarding school could not have been more restrained. 
Not even the champagne ordered by the senior commander 
succeeded in melting their reserve. 

I realized at once, of course, that this was just another of 
Madame Renoir's clever tricks. She wanted to create the il- 
lusion that we were dealing with real ladies who had to be 
courted before they could be enjoyed. Presumably this would 



in To the Girls) *>- 

increase the value of the objects of our lust, and intensify 
desire. 

I sat beside Miss Violetta, and had much to endure. The 
shy manner with which she turned her prettily painted face 
to me; the little dimples in her cheeks; her breasts strongly 
emphasized by her tight-fitting dress; the fine grain of her 
shoulders all this transported me with delight. When she 
tried to engage in conversation, I attempted to speed the in- 
timacy which was not being established aboveboard by di- 
rect action under the table. But as soon as my foot touched 
Miss Violetta's, she discreetly withdrew hers, and when I 
tried knees, she primly shifted her chair. This, I felt, was an 
outright insult. After all, the women and girls on the Corso 
had been altogether different. When you felt them up a lit- 
tle in passing, they smiled and even responded. And those 
were bona fide ladies of the best families in town. At least 
they knew what women in the rear areas owed to the sol- 
diers who had gone without everything for months at the 
front. They had a patriotic sense of duty under their skins. 

How long was this farce going to continue? We started 
dancing and the music played by the phonograph was a 
minuet! Really, this was pushing the thing too far! Albi, 
that idiot who had dragged us all here, might think it all 
very fine. After all, he was playing the part of an amused 
spectator, so to speak. He had a bottle in front of him and 
looked thoroughly tight again; was chewing a fat cigar and 
gloating over it all. And the others well, maybe they were 
better brought up than I, but they were certainly a great deal 
dumber! They were taking this without protest. Damned 
if I was going to not Adam Ember! I hadn't come to this 
house to dance minuets. If the others were agreeable to 
such a farce, that was their affair. I had just made up my 
mind to drop Violetta when the minuet abruptly changed 
to a waltz. Not the ideal dance for a bordello either, but at 
least somewhat better. 

As we waltzed back and forth and I pressed Violetta closer 



A 8 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

and closer, I felt under her dress, which seemed almost a 
part of her, the jounce of her breasts, the delicious arc of 
her waist, the tensed legs under the swell of the hips, the 
animation of the muscles, all the stimulating delights con- 
cealed beneath this dress. On top of all this came the pleas- 
ure of seeing myself embracing her and her embracing me 
in all the mirrors. From turn to turn the music took on a 
more and more passionate tempo. I drew her tighter and 
tighter against my body, until her body held hardly a secret 
from me; I felt the pull of her muscles, the pulsations of her 
veins. A moment later the dance was one great mingling. 

Then the lights suddenly went out. The music stopped. 
In the darkness Violetta slipped from me. I groped for her. 
The interlude lasted only a second. When the chandeliers 
flared and the music struck up again, the girls fell into our 
arms once more, now dressed in nothing but transparent 
negligees. 



In the left corner of the room a mirror-sheathed door 
opened. Everyone trooped to it, past the office where Madame 
sat enthroned at a raised desk, entering the couples in her 
book. There was a traffic jam at the stairway leading up to the 
rooms. I had just reached the first steps with Violetta when 
I noticed clinging to the balustrade, a half-dressed man with 
a chalk-white face who was swaying back and forth. 

"Why, it's Commander Konrad," I murmured. Just then 
he tottered and fell forward unconscious upon a couple who 
were coming up the stairs. A girl with raven-black hair, who 
had been at his side, uttered a scream. Alarmed, the couples 
broke apart and ran to his aid. 

The regimental doctor rushed forward, and Madame also 
came running. 

"How did this happen?" Dr. Kapra asked the black-haired 
girl. She replied that Konrad had been staying with her 



in To the Girls) 

since the afternoon, and that they both had been drinking 
heavily. "Well, no wonder," the doctor commented. "Enough 
to wear out a bull. Overstrain. There's only one medicine 
for that: a good long sleep." 

"Number nineteen is free," Madame said, sighing with 
relief. She asked us to take him to the room. 

"Pardon me," I apologized to Violetta. "He's my own 
commander. I'll just see to him and be right back." 

Four of us carried him up and laid him on the bed. I 
stayed for a moment to smooth the pillows and draw a blan- 
ket over him. After all, I had served under him on Hill 317. 
I started to leave, to go for Violetta. But as my hand touched 
the door-latch, he began to roll back and forth, moaning, 
so I went over to the bed again. 

"Can I do anything for you, Commander? Would you 
like a glass of water?" I asked. 

He did not answer. 

I wet some towels and placed them on his forehead and 
under his neck. He opened his eyes, recognized me, and 
reached for my hand. "Dummox!" he groaned hoarsely. 
That was how he used to address me and the whole garrison 
of the hill. Then his eyes closed again. I wanted to go, but as 
soon as I tried to relase my hand he groaned once more: 
"Dummox!" 

"You must sleep," I urged him. "Doctor's orders." 

I had promised Violetta I would be right back. Besides, I 
myself was in a hurry. All that ceremonious nonsense in the 
mirror room had postponed things far too long as it was. No 
one could ask me to spend the rest of the night holding 
hands with the commander. After all, I hadn't come here to 
take on medical duties. Again I tried to free myself, but as 
soon as I moved my fingers, he gripped me harder. 

This was too infuriating. All the others must be in bed 
with their girls by now; was I to be the only one left out? 
And all because the commander had been fooling with the 



50 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

black-haired dame all afternoon. Suppose he was feeling 
bad now; he'd had his fun already. I was feeling bad, too, 
because I hadn't had any fun yet. Commander and my su- 
perior all very well. But we were not on any hill here; every- 
one had equal rights in a bordello. 

I made up my mind to fetch Violetta. It wouldn't do to 
let the poor girl wait any longer. After all, she made her liv- 
ing by her customers. As tactfully as possible I freed my 
hand, saying, "I must leave for just a moment, Commander; 
Fll be right back." Then I wrenched open the door, dashed 
into the dimly lit corridor, and ran my face into a great, 
surging, soft mass. I looked up: a wealth of blond hair. And 
at that moment of contact, feeling the very breasts I had so 
vividly pictured during that march through the mud, I re- 
called the name. "Ludmilla!" I exclaimed, overjoyed. 

"Yes, my boy, Ludmilla," she said. "Do you want to come 
with me?" 

I followed her to her room: a bed with pink silk eider- 
downs, on the wall an oil painting of a satyr with a naked 
nymph in his arms. 

"Who recommended me to you?" she inquired. 

I did not want to waste any more time in talking. 

"HI tell you later, come now, come quick," I panted. 

Ignaz had not exaggerated; Ludmilla was everything a 
soldier could wish for. The tearing impatience that seized 
me now, as she nonchalantly slipped out of her clothes, I 
had not felt even when my first girl undressed for me. 

But it was as though everything conspired against me. I 
had barely encircled Ludmilla and burrowed into her swell- 
ing bosom, when a scream from the next room reached our 
ears. 

Ludmilla raised her head, listening uneasily. "That's Black 
Narcissus," she murmured, lunging out of my arms. 

Damn it all, just at this moment. Couldn't that girl next 
door have waited a few minutes! 



in To the Girls) 

The screaming continued and Ludmilla pushed me vigor- 
ously aside. "Stop it," she said. "I must see what' s wrong." 

A moment later she returned. "Come, help me, I don't 
know what to do with her," she said. "And above all get that 
drunken sack out of her room." 

Unwillingly, I put on my clothes and followed her. Even 
in my state of thwarted excitement I was alarmed when I 
say the black-haired girl, who had been with Konrad, lying on 
her bed twisted with pain. On a chair in the corner sat Albi 
in his underwear, gaping at her with the frightened help- 
lessness of a person too far gone to understand anything. He 
was a pitiable sight. 

"Do what you can for her while I go for the doctor," I 
said. "But how am I going to find him?" 

"Ask Madame; she has everyone listed. But don't leave 
that fellow here to pester me," Ludmilla added, pointing to 
Albi. 

It was no simple matter to dress Albi, propel him out of 
the room and help him, heavy and unsteady as he was, 
down the stairs. I took him to a waiter with instructions 
that he be given a double espresso to sober up on. "And not 
another drop of liquor," I whispered. Then I hurried to 
Madame, who was in her office filling out bills. As soon as 
she heard that the Black Narcissus was ill, she dropped every- 
thing and led me to Dr. Kapra's room. 

"Griselda, open the door!" she called, knocking loudly. 

"Shh, be quiet; he's gone to sleep," the girl said as she 
opened the door. 

Dr. Kapra was sleeping deeply. I had to shake him several 
times before he awoke. 

"What is it?" he asked drowsily at long last. 

"One of the girls is sick." 

"It won't amount to anything," he mumbled. "So am I. 
Leave me alone." He turned to the wall. 

Madame persisted. She pulled pillows and blanket away 



^2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

from him until at last he staggered up. She scarcely gave 
him time to dress. 

We went to Black Narcissus' room. 

"Narcissus, darling, what's the matter with you?" Madame 
screeched hysterically when she caught a glimpse from the 
door of the girl writhing in convulsions. "Doctor, what is it? 
Say something." 

"I must ask you to wait outside until I have examined the 
patient/' the doctor said. He also asked Ludmilla to leave 
the room. 

Meanwhile, attracted by the commotion, several guests 
and girls had gathered in the corridor. They peered curi- 
ously into the room, and the doctor ordered me to close the 
door. He examined the girl carefully, frowned, shook his 
head, murmured to himself: "Well, well, it wouldn't be ... 
Is there any carbolic here?" He washed his hands with great 
care. "Tell me," he asked abruptly, "where have you put 
the commander? I'd like to take another look at him. Show 
me to him at once. But first get that crowd in the corridor 
out of the way especially Madame. She's a nuisance I 
can really do without right now." 

As soon as I opened the door, I again encountered the 
soft, beneficent mass of flesh, and above it the flowing blond 
hair. For a moment I stood stunned; but then I pulled my- 
self together and stepped aside. 

"What's the matter with Black Narcissus, my boy?" Lud- 
milla queried me. 

"What's the matter with her?" Madame wailed. 

"What's the matter with her?" Everyone in the corridor 
assailed me. 

"Nothing to be worked up about; it isn't serious." I tried 
to calm them. "But she must have absolute quiet. Dr. Kapra 
has ordered me to clear the corridor." 

Madame Renoir insisted that she must see Black Narcis- 
sus. 



in To the Girls) ^3 

"I'm sorry, but the doctor won't permit it," I contested. 

"I like that!" Madame burst out. "I should think I have 
the right to attend to my own girls in my own house." 

She reached for the latch. I planted myself squarely in 
front of her, determined to carry out my orders. "I'm sorry, 
Madame," 1 said firmly. 

Here Ludmilla interposed. Her bosom came barging right 
into my face. "Come, come, my boy, don't be a stinker. 
Madame has a weak heart and must not be flustered. Let 
her in for just a minute." 

"Impossible." 

"Who do you think you are, baby?" she challenged as she 
rammed against me the considerable weight of her bosom 
and thighs and, encouraged by catcalls from her colleagues, 
attempted to push me away from the door. 

I was almost vanquished when, luckily for me, Dr. Kapra 
came out, closing the door behind him. "For the present no 
one may enter the patient's room," he announced. 

"All but me," Madame panted, gasping for breath. 

"Not you either, Madame Renoir. Absolutely no one." 

She became more and more overwrought. "We'll see about 
that!" she shrieked, and once again approached the door. 

"In my capacity as a doctor I forbid you to enter." 

"What presumption!" 

"Dearest Madame, calm down. You know excitement 
isn't good for you," the girls soothed her. 

"Let me alone." Madame fought them off. "I'll show 
him who gives orders here. You're nothing but a customer," 
she snarled at the doctor. "Pay for your fun, and get out, 
you and your whole crew, or I'll have you thrown out!" 

Nothing remained of the ladylike demeanor of the woman 
who had received us. Fists raised threateningly, she ad- 
vanced upon the doctor in wild fury. A scuffle began. Mad- 
ame kicked and attempted to scratch, all the while scream- 
ing without pause: "In my house! My room! My Narcissus." 



t-s ( The Silver Bacchanal 

Suddenly she began to sway, and one hand flew to her 
heart. "My drops/' she gasped, and fell to the floor. 

The girls all screamed at once. "The drops . . . help . . . 
why can't she see Black Narcissus?" Dr. Kapra tried to 
do his professional duty. But even before he could touch 
Madame's pulse, the girls fell upon him. "You let her be, 
you murderer," they screeched. 

"You see what youVe done!" Ludmilla bawled at me, and 
gave me a stinging slap. "Don't you dare try to climb into 
my bed again, you pig!" 

"Bravo, Ludmilla," the girls cried as they helped carry 
Madame off to her room. 

Harrowing as this incident was, Madame's heart attack 
was fortunate for us. I don't know how we would otherwise 
have got rid of her and the wild crowd of girls. 

"We have no time to lose," the doctor said. He had one of 
the officers post guard at Narcissus' door and went with me 
to the commander's room. 

Konrad's condition seemed to have worsened considerably 
since I had left him. He was convulsed with pain, and kept 
calling, "Water, water!" 

I held out a glass to him. "Dummox," he mumbled. 

Dr. Kapra was mystified. "What was that he said?" 

"Oh, nothing; he knows me from the front." 

After the doctor had observed Konrad for a while, he said, 
"I don't think I can possibly be mistaken. This certainly 
seems to be . . ." 

"Sir, you don't mean it's ..." I began. But he raised his 
hand to cut me off. 

"For the present, not a word to anyone. At any rate, wash 
your hands thoroughly in carbolic." 

In the corridor Senior Commander Mannsteufel came for- 
ward to meet us. "I was looking everywhere for you," he said 
to the doctor. 



m To the Girls) 

"I've just come from Commander Konrad," Dr. Kapra 
replied. 

"What's his trouble?" 

"It appears to be a serious matter; we must discuss it. But 
not here. Let us find a place where we can talk without inter- 
ruption. We'll need the mayor also." 

I offered to fetch Albi. 

We went downstairs. The doctor and the commander with- 
drew into Madame's office. I went to the pantry to see about 
Albi. He already seemed to be a good deal more sober. 

"This rascal would not give me anything decent to 
drink," he complained, indicating the waiter. "But no mat- 
ter; it's time we went home anyway." 

"The senior commander would like to speak with you 
first," I said, helping him to his feet. 

Dr. Kapra ushered us into the office. "I've just explained 
to the commander what we have on our hands," he began. 
There was a knock at the door. "Damn it all, isn't there a 
single quiet place in this house! See who it is," he told me. 

A soldier was standing at the door. He asked whether there 
was a doctor in the house; a corporal had collapsed in the 
street outside and was writhing in convulsions. 

"There we have it!" the doctor exclaimed, bolting after 
the soldier. 

"Where's the fire?" the mayor asked innocently. 

"Perhaps it will be better if he explained it to you himself," 
the senior commander replied. 

Meanwhile Dr. Kapra had returned. He had the corporal 
moved to one of the rooms. Now he turned to us with a grave 
expression. "Unfortunately, my fears have just been con- 
firmed. We must instantly take measures to prevent the dis- 
ease from spreading. The red-light district will have to be 
quarantined from the rest of the town." 

At the word "town" Albi immediately became cold sober. 
"Do you mean that our town is endangered?" he cried out. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

"I must be off to issue the necessary orders." 

Dr. Kapra blocked his way. "Sorry, Albi, you're not leav- 
ing now. For the present, no one may leave here/' 

"No one, all right, but after all I am the mayor. It is my 
official duty to be on the spot in an emergency. I'm sorry, 
but where the welfare of Drohitz is at stake, I cannot let 
anyone balk me." 

The senior commander intervened. "Albi, you know we 
all have the greatest respect for you and your town. But you 
must realize that at the moment the primary concern must 
be the army." 

"As mayor my primary concern is the civilian population 
of my city, and I must do what I think right." 

"And for my part, as a soldier I must abide by army regu- 
lations and proceed accordingly," the senior commander 
said with a certain sharpness. "Drohitz is at this moment 
the seat of the army and is therefore under military com- 
mand. In the name of the Military Government, Mayor Gos- 
poda, I forbid you to leave this house. After all, you can is- 
sue your instructions by telephone from here, as we are do- 
ing. We are all in the same boat." 

For a moment the mayor looked stunned; then he burst 
out bitterly: "If only I had not let you wheedle me into this 
place. Now I'm in for it. What will the people of Drohitz 
think of me now? For eight years they have looked up to me 
as to a father. What will they say when they find out that 
I, their mayor, instead of taking charge am spending my 
time in a bordello? My entire career is ruined!" 

"What does any one man's career matter!" the senior 
commander upbraided him. "Don't you realize that our 
whole military offensive is at stake, the victorious termination 
of this war, and thus the fate of our country? As a good pa- 
triot, you must understand that." 

"Have mercy!" the mayor pleaded. "Let me return to the 
city." 



in To the Girls) ~n 

"Look, Albi, I hate to say this, but you least of all can 
leave here," the doctor said gently. 

"Why me?" 

"Since you press the issue, I must remind you that you 
were the last person with Black Narcissus." 

"What has that to do with it?" the mayor stammered. The 
meaning of the words gradually dawned on him. "Is she 
too . . . ?" he asked in horror. 

The doctor nodded. Albi paled and began to shake. Dr. 
Kapra tried to reassure him. "It doesn't mean that you too 
. . . But we must keep you under observation here for a 
while." 

This remark had a crushing effect upon Albi. He sat 
stunned, with glazed eyes and contorted features, resembling 
neither the dignified mayor of the parade ground nor the 
capering drunk of the casino. 

"You had best retire for a while and get some rest," the 
doctor advised him, "so that you will be fit for tomorrow, 
when all sorts of decisions for Drohitz will have to be made." 

Albi refused at first, but gradually recognizing that in 
his present condition he could cope with nothing, he agreed. 
We asked the waiter to find some quiet place for Albi to 
sleep. "I'll speak to Madame," he replied. 

That was all we needed. 

"Madame is not well and must not be disturbed," the 
doctor said. "Can't you take care of this?" He pressed a bank- 
note into the waiter's hand. 

"I suppose I can," the waiter consented. He beckoned to 
the mayor to follow him. 



The Battle of the 
Amazons 



A 

^LlLbov 



3ve all we must . . ." 

"Above all we must . . ." Mannsteufel and Dr. Kapra 
began almost simultaneously. 

Above all we had to obtain medicines, sterilizer kits, 
stretchers, rubber gloves and a hundred and one other things. 
Also, we would have to bring in some men from the med- 
ical corps. Above all, Madame Renoir's house had to be 
isolated. Above all, we had to find out whether there were 
any similar cases in the other houses of the Mashinka. Above 
all, panic had to be avoided. And all these "above alls" had 
to be tackled at once. 

I spoke of the up-to-date medical apparatus I had seen 
during our inspection tour of the hospital in the baroness' 
palace, and suggested that the men of my platoon, who were 
at the moment unoccupied, should be detailed here. 

"There is one more very important matter," the senior 
commander remarked at the end of our discussion. "For 
the present, the name of the disease must not be mentioned 
at all, even among ourselves. If the news were to trickle out 
and perhaps reach the ears of our enemy, the effect upon 
our planned offensive could be disastrous. So there must be 
absolute silence. I want you gentlemen to give me your 
word of honor as soldiers." 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) ~Q 

We sealed our compact by shaking hands all around. 

Dr. Kapra went at once to the telephone to pass on the 
necessary instructions to Dr. Zitrom. I was told to transmit 
to the officers up in the rooms the order to come down di- 
rectly for roll call in the Silver Hall. 

While Mannsteufel a senior commander multiplied a 
hundredfold informed the likewise centupled officers of 
the gravity of the situation, and explained to them that suc- 
cessful defense of our country depended upon the strictest 
execution of his orders, my platoon arrived with the equip- 
ment we had ordered. The officers were instructed to round 
up all the soldiers in the Mashinka and assemble them in 
Madame Renoir's garden. All exits from the Mashinka were 
to be covered by guards, and the streets patrolled. I was di- 
rected to take my platoon and search the houses. Anyone 
who was sick or suspect was to be removed to the Silver 
Hall. 

I started off with my platoon and a group of officers who 
were already sweeping the district. We stopped all the sol- 
diers we met. "Orders to report for duty; follow us." 

From one red light to the next we went, from one den to 
the next. First we entered the dives where the rude appetite 
of the enlisted men was served. Here the atmosphere was so 
thick it could be cut with a knife. The dcor consisted of 
battered sofas and dusty tubbed palms in corners. There 
were plump and slender girls, some flabby, others with boy- 
ish faces, caked with powder. Their cheeks and lips were 
crimsoned, their eyelids tinted brown and green, their hair 
dyed blond or deep red. A few girls were costumed in low- 
necked blouses with short, crackling taffeta skirts which ex- 
posed the flowered, pink garters above their knees, or in 
flesh-colored tricots fitting so tightly that they seemed ready 
to split, or in light tulle garments, slashed here and there, 
that unfolded at every movement. Some girls wore high- 
heeled shoes and nothing else but lace-trimmed pantaloons 
and plumed hats, with the whole upper parts of their bodies 



fi o ( The Silver Bacchanal 

naked. Recumbent on divans, girls blinked lewdly at the 
men. The tables were crowded with drunken soldiers who 
now and then reached for the girls. On the dance floor hips 
and breasts moved in sensual rhythm to canned music. 

In each place our appearance produced general conster- 
nation. When the lieutenant in his grating, battlefield voice 
bawled into the room, "Attenshun!" the order traversed all 
the well-worn nerve paths of these veteran soldiers. The 
lascivious looks froze, the lewd gestures petrified, the slaver- 
ing avidity subsided. On the dance floor the swaying bodies 
slowed, became stationary like a waxworks display of rut. 
Gradually the soldiers gathered their wits together and 
started to follow the officer to the street. 

But immediately furies would dart after them. Here a 
madam with reptilian glass eyes, there a sharp-nosed weasel 
with pinched face insisted raucously on being paid for drinks 
and rooms before the soldiers left. 

From the halls we proceeded to inspection of the rooms. 
We knocked: "Open! Report for roll call." A smell of cheap 
perfume mingled with the stench of carbolic and sweat took 
our breath away. Many of the men in the rooms thought 
our knocking and summons a practical joke, and refused to 
open. Then we had to break open the doors and drag recal- 
citrants from their tumbled beds. 

From house to house, from den to den, the number of sol- 
diers in our train increased. 

In one of the taverns a solo dance was in progress as we 
entered. The room was darkened except for a spotlight 
which fell upon the middle of the dance floor, illuminating 
the tanned body of a girl who was making the most of her 
nakedness. She scarcely raised her feet from the floor; only 
her belly and hips danced. From time to time she threw her 
head back abruptly; the muscles of her throat tensed and her 
breasts began to sway until at last her whole body was car- 
ried along by the rhythm of the movement, whirling in 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) fij 

bacchantic ecstasy. Everyone was watching in rapt fascina- 
tion. Even the lieutenant waited with his announcement 
until the dance was over. 

We were searching the upper story when one of my men 
came back with the report that a soldier had been found 
unconscious in the washroom. I hurried down. An infantry- 
man lay on the floor, face gray, uttering gurgling sounds. It 
was hard to tell whether he was merely drunk or ... In 
any case, I had him carried to the Silver Hall. 

Upstairs, the tour through the rooms went on. Once more 
we reached a door which was not opened in spite of our 
vigorous knocks. 

"Well, I'll show that guy!" a sergeant growled, and kicked 
at the flimsy door with his heavy boot. A girl lay on the 
floor beside the cheap dressing table. Under the powder 
and rouge her little whore's face was sunken and distorted. 
She lay motionless, eyes dull, nose peaked, her straw-colored 
hair dangling in disorderly strands. Beside her lay a broken 
jar of cold cream. Evidently she had been about to make up 
anew when she collapsed. I rushed her over to the Silver 
Hall. 

In the garden I came upon a sizable band of soldiers who 
were being lined up by the officers. In front of us, two medi- 
cal aides were carrying a stretcher into the house. Others 
were already in the hall of mirrors. In order to provide beds 
for the new patients, Dr. Kapra had ordered the girls to 
leave their rooms. Loaded with clothes and paraphernalia, 
they came downstairs, screeching their protests. 

Madame had meanwhile recovered and had posted her- 
self in front of the stairs, a living outcry against this com- 
mandeering of her rooms. Her objection was a social one. 
"This is a house for gentlemen!" she wailed. "How can you 
bring this gutter rabble into my house?" 

The doctor was anxious to avert another attack, and tried 
to placate her: "Madame Renoir, you must not agitate your- 



$2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

self. After all, you understand that these people are sick and 
need care." 

"My house is no hospital/' 

"You are mistaken, Madame. At present your house is a 
hospital." 

"My house/' she spluttered. "I give the orders here, no 
one else." 

Dr. Kapra controlled his temper with difficulty. 

"I must point out to you that your house is at present un- 
der military control, and has been requisitioned for a hos- 
pital." 

"There is no such thing!" Madame Renoir seethed. "After 
all, I have a license. The mayor will tell you. Mayor Gos- 
poda . . ." But Albi was nowhere to be seen. "That skulk- 
ing coward" she fumed. "Brings all this rabble into my 
house and then skips out. I'll teach him. I'll stand in the 
market place and tell everybody what a fine mayor we have." 
She gasped for breath. "But I can do without him." Again 
she hurled herself at Dr. Kapra. "Why don't you take your 
patients to the city hospital? Why keep them in my house?" 

"I am afraid you will have to accept the army's decisions 
without question, Madame Renoir." 

"Army," she sneered. "A hell of an army." She caught sight 
of the stretcher my men were carrying. "I suppose you 
want to put her in one of my beds, on my down pillows! 
No, you won't; I won't hear of it as long as I'm still alive!" 

Violetta came down the stairs, carrying her things, and 
paused for a moment beside the stretcher. 

"Haven't you any sense of decency, Miss Violetta?" Mad- 
ame reprimanded her. "Are you going to have anything to 
do with a common whore!" 

Two other "misses" walked past the stretcher with up- 
turned noses. 

The doctor wanted to avoid complications if possible. But 
heart attack or not, his patience was at an end. "If you don't 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) fi.* 

get out of the way/' he snapped at Madame, "I shall be 
compelled to have you removed by force." He beckoned to 
two officers. Madame Renoir had no choice but to abandon 
the field. 

"Why did they ever come to my house?" she wailed as she 
moved off. "They've brought me nothing but ill luck. Why 
couldn't this have happened in Madame Tscherka's house? 
There's no justice." 

We carried the girl upstairs, and I set out again. I had 
barely reached the garden gate when a sergeant came up to 
me and reported that a similar case had been found in the 
house next door. 

As soon as I entered the room, I received a shock. The pa- 
tient was Barnabas, my old hilarious chum from Hill 317. 
From the start I had always seen him laughing laughing 
when we sought cover in muddy foxholes; laughing when 
the bullets whistled around our ears; laughing when we re- 
ceived rotting beets and polluted pond water at mess. All 
this came back vividly now. I saw him shaking with laughter 
when the first supplies arrived after our long famine, and 
enemy shells tore to bits chewing mouths and stuffed stom- 
achs in the midst of our gluttonous feast. He would laugh 
in the face of suffering, horrors and death, as though the 
whole war could be overcome by laughter. No terror was too 
terrible and no grandeur too grand to be ridiculed. Only 
this morning, when the mayor had solemnly welcomed our 
victorious army, Barnabas had burst into raucous laughter. 

Nature herself had inscribed deep folds upon his face, the 
birthmarks of unquenchable merriment. His body had been 
shaped upon the last of laughter. What a pity it was to see 
this man, this hero of gaiety, felled by paroxysms, lying 
there with pain-contorted face. He seemed to be still fully 
conscious, recognized me at once, and in spite of his pain 
tried as usual to greet me with a broad grin. His chest rose 



^ (The Silver Bacchanal 

in short, jerky gasps, but nevertheless he called out to me, 
"Ha-ha, Fatso!" When I asked where the pain was, he raised 
his long, apelike arms and pointed to his abdomen. "Hear it 
rumbling in there: clunk-clunk." And then indicating the 
cramped calves of his legs: "Snap-snap-ouch-ouch 1" This 
was immediately followed by: "Ha-ha, hee-hee." He was 
wrathfully laughing at his own agony. 

I had seen enough wretchedness in the field, but never 
had I been so shaken by human misery as here where a 
creature made for laughter contended with torments. Now 
the pain would seize him in its grip, would force him to 
hunch his head between his shoulders; the corners of his 
mouth would twist downward, his lips compress, his eyes 
freeze with horror and then suddenly the laughter would 
dislodge his head, throw it back, curl his lips, widen his 
mouth, and the humor in his eyes would dispel the stoni- 
ness. His body, which a moment before had been writhing 
convulsively, would now shake so with laughter that he 
would have to hold his sides. Now the groans laughed, now 
the laughter groaned. 

I stood paralyzed, finding it more difficult than Barnabas 
to see the funny side of this illness. 

The door opened. The madam, lean as an old alley cat, 
came creeping in, apparently to see about collecting the 
money Barnabas owed to one of her girls. For a second she 
crouched, back bent, like an animal about to spring. Then 
she reached Barnabas' bed in one leap. "Cheat!" she hissed. 
And infuriated by Barnabas' hollow laughter, she fumbled 
in his pocket for his wallet. 

The sergeant tried to restrain her. "Keep away," he called. 
"Don't touch him." 

The old woman paid no attention. She already had her 
claws in Barnabas' coat pocket. 

"Get away, it's contagious," the sergeant warned her. 

Her scrabbling ceased. Frightened, she shrank back. "Con- 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) fic- 

tagious," she whimpered, and with a catlike leap she was out 
of the room. 

We looked at each other in dismay. A single careless word, 
and all our plans to keep the danger secret were thwarted. 
Now there would be no stopping it. Already the careless 
word was running down the corridor with the old woman, 
racing into the room, down the steps, into the tavern. From 
all the walls, from every corner, the house throbbed with: 
"Contagious, contagious!" 

As yet it was only a word, as yet the disease had no name. 
But this very namelessness had evoked the dark and an- 
cient fear of the unknown. 

When we carried Barnabas out, this fear peered inquis- 
itively through the cracks in all the doors. And as we 
walked down the gantlet of horror, Barnabas' laughter sud- 
denly rose like a wave, washing over his torment. He sat up, 
arms clasped around his knees, rocking back and forth on his 
buttocks, and laughed so loudly, so wildly, that the whole 
abyss of terror resounded with his mirth. 

Once outside the house we sealed the door and posted a 
double guard in front of it, as though we actually hoped to 
contain the careless word behind bolts and bars. As we 
sped down the street with our stretcher, all the windows in 
the houses on both sides flew open as if at a signal. Horror- 
stricken faces leaned over the sills, calling to one another: 
"Contagious, contagious!" At first the word sounded 
muted, from choked voices, but it rapidly climbed to a shrill 
crescendo. A piercing shriek flashed down the street: "Con- 
tagious!" 

"Get back there! Close those windows!" the patrol called. 
But no command could drive that cry back into the houses. 

And then, before the patrol could act, the doors flew 
open. Girls, madams and servants charged past the guards 
into the street. In a few seconds the narrow alley was peo- 
pled by outlandish phantoms, girls in tricots, girls in evening 



66 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

dress, girls in lace-trimmed panties. A grotesque carnival pro- 
cession of trembling bodies and fear-twisted masks pressed 
toward the exits of the Mashinka in the glow of the red 
lanterns. "Let us out, let us out!" they screamed. 

We could not make any progress through this crowd with 
Barnabas* stretcher and took refuge in a doorway. When 
Barnabas, gripped by pain, began to roar, I ordered him 
taken to one of the rooms on the second floor. Just then I 
saw two of my men in front of the door. Here was my 
chance to send a message to Dr. Kapra, who must be won- 
dering where I was. "I'll be right back/' I shouted to Barna- 
bas, and stepped out. Instantly I was carried away by a hu- 
man torrent which irresistibly swept me along. 

In the midst of the tumult I suddenly caught sight of 
Ludmilla's face. Near her were Violetta and other girls from 
the Silver Hall. All of Madame Renoir's misses, the aris- 
tocracy of the gutter, were now pressing forward together with 
the "common whores" toward the exit of the Mashinka. 

As more and more bands poured out of the side streets, 
faces and figures of the swelling mob formed one indis- 
tinguishable mass. Abruptly the pressing and trembling, the 
cries of fear, were no longer the expression of horror by this 
one or that one a multishaped mob-monster rolled in the 
red glow of the lanterns down the street, its head one gigan- 
tic throat from which there rose, like a roar, one and the 
same cry of terror. 

The scene was beginning to whirl feverishly before my 
eyes. Houses and women merged with one another like 
phantoms. It seemed to me that everything all about would 
be seized by the insane fear of the mob, would begin 
to tremble and scream doors, lanterns, buildings, all the 
panic-stricken vice of the Mashinka, even the cloudy sky, the 
air, the night everything striving to escape the contagion. 

An officer released me from the spell. "Don't just stand 
there, do something," he called, and gripped my hand, and 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) fa 

immediately I became a link in a chain of soldiers who were 
trying to contain the rabid mob. I was seized by uneasiness 
about Barnabas; I could visualize him plainly, and what 
troubled me was not so much his suffering, but his laughter. 
I should not have abandoned him, but now I was caught in 
this chain and could no longer return to the house where I 
had left him. 

At this point the troops we had rounded up earlier came 
marching down the street under the leadership of the senior 
commander. 

"Clear the street; drive them back into the houses," the 
commander shouted, and the soldiers began pressing the 
girls back. Their timely intervention seemed on the point of 
quelling the riot. But then the crowd abruptly hardened and 
resolutely faced the troops. 

"Move along there!" the soldiers cried. But the crowd 
stood its ground. In the center I made out Ludmilla's tower- 
ing figure. She whispered something to the girl beside her, 
who passed it on to the next; we could see the words leaping 
down the rows. And before we knew what was happening, 
the band of women had become transformed into a mili- 
tant battalion. For a moment the cordon of soldiers and the 
battalion of women stood facing each other, motionless. 
Then Mannsteufel's voice rang out: "Get back or . . ." 
But before he could finish his threat, Ludmilla, with the 
lordly gesture of an Amazon chieftain, gave the signal to at- 
tack. With a furious cry the band of women fell upon us. 
They struck out with their fists, dug their fingernails into 
our flesh, flashed hatpins and hairpins like daggers, kicked 
with the sharp points of their shoes. 

"Give it to them!" Ludmilla exhorted her Amazons. 

Surprised by the sudden assault, our soldiers were at first 
at a loss to defend themselves. Most of them were battle- 
tried veterans who would have held their ground in the 
worst of enemy fire, but they were no match for these fe- 



68 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

male furies. Even the senior commander was for a moment 
taken aback. 

Presently he recovered. "Forward! Over the top!" he 
shouted as if we were in the trenches, his voice quivering 
with rage and excitement. 

Then we closed. 

We were on leave and without arms, had only our fists to 
rely on. But after all, these were men's fists, soldiers' hands 
that had tackled more than one enemy at the front. We 
struck hard at the women male fists against maenads' 
claws, blows against scratches. Even so it was not easy to 
overpower them. Their determination to flee the district 
gave them a tenacity which our toughest fighters could not 
break down. 

As soon as Mannsteufel had recognized the gravity of the 
situation, he had sent an orderly to telephone the garrison 
for armed reinforcements. The sky was already beginning to 
show light; the troops ought to arrive shortly. Meanwhile, 
the battle continued bitterly. 

"Hold out!" the senior commander cried. 

"Break through!" Ludmilla spurred on the girls. 

Orders crossed through the air. 

Now and then the girls slipped into houses and returned 
armed with kitchen utensils, bottles and ash trays. We had 
to duck and seek cover in order to dodge the well-aimed 
missiles. Close to me one of our men suffered a direct hit. A 
bottle landed squarely on his head. He fell to the ground, 
streaming blood. I rushed to his aid, but before I reached 
him one of the maenads jumped upon my back and dragged 
me down. Immediately other women pitched in and began 
kicking me around. 

I was no fighter, only a medical aide and gravedigger. 
But now that they started stomping on my chest and belly, I 
saw red. I bit and pinched their calves, pulled them over, 
used every trick to free myself and get to my feet again. Yet 



v The Battle of the Amazons) Q 

sven now, as I defended myself against fingernails, needles 
md high-heeled shoes, and was in danger of being trampled 
:o death, Barnabas' pain-distorted, laughing face hung con- 
:inually before my eyes. 

I had just succeeded in struggling to my feet when one of 
the girls dealt me such a well-aimed blow on the septum 
that everything turned black. Barnabas' face, too, vanished; 
only his peal of laughter remained. Divorced from his image, 
detached, nothing but a sound, his pure laughter shrieked in 
my ears, drowning out the howls and screams of the battle. 
Then I no longer knew whether I screamed at one of the 
furies, "Stop or I'll kill you!" or whether I screamed this at 
the laughter and lashed out with all my strength at it. 

Time passed. The expected reinforcements had not yet 
arrived and the battle grew more furious on both sides. 
After a while, however, we gained the upper hand. We 
formed ranks once more and marched forward, striking 
blows to right and left. Already the women were beginning 
to retreat. 

Then Ludmilla resorted to her last weapon. She stepped 
forward one, two paces, planted herself with legs spread 
wide in front of our advancing rows, and with one swift 
movement ripped the clothes from her body. Stark-naked, 
she stood there. "Come onl" she urged her band. A moment 
later we were facing a battalion of women in the armor of 
nakedness. 

I saw Ludmilla advancing toward me, her flesh quaking 
as she came. "Come, baby/' she cooed, and my face sank 
between her huge breasts. I felt her massive thigh between 
mine. Involuntarily, my hands slid from those of the men 
on either side of me and ringed Ludmilla's waist. 

The fierce craving I had felt for her before the screams of 
Black Narcissus had torn her from my arms swept me once 
more. I felt the blood rising to my head, flooding hotly 
through my whole body. 



PJQ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

"Ludmilla!" I moaned. 

"Don't give way! Resist!" the order rang out. 

Resist? To hell with resistance; when at last I could press 
her to me, feel her ripe mouth, her breasts, her thighs, her 
loins. After all, ever since this damnable war had begun I 
hadn't had a woman. 

I could still hear solitary shouts of command. Then the 
only words that reached me were, "Come, baby, come." 
And now it was not merely Ludmilla, it was the body of 
Woman that pressed against me, the eternal womb from 
which all comes, into which all goes. And I was no longer 
Adam Ember, medical aide and gravedigger, but the first 
Adam, impelled by a fierce primordial desire which was 
stronger than duty, obedience, war and country. Dating 
back to the Garden of Eden, it preceded all wars and all 
countries, and invited disobedience. 

I drowned in a voluptuousness intense to the point of 
pain. The passion that gripped me transcended the body 
and spread throughout infinity. 

And then suddenly Barnabas' blasted laughter blared in 
my ears. I pressed Ludmilla closer, buried my head deeper 
into her flesh, so as not to hear it. But it laughed even more 
wildly, as if someone were actually laughing above me. 
Madness! I had myself left Barnabas at the house and or- 
dered him to be taken to a room. Damn it all. 

Linked to Ludmilla, I was in the midst of my pleasure, 
and still this laughter tormented me. It shrilled like an alarm 
clock in my ear. No hallucination could sound so loud, so 
powerful, so real. I had to find out. And there, as I looked 
up, I saw Barnabas leaning out of a window, looking down 
at the street and roaring with laughter. 

The man must be raving mad. I wanted to wave my fist at 
him, give him hell, silence him. Then suddenly I realized 
that this was not Barnabas' laughter, this was no longer hu- 
man laughter haw-hawing, but arose from the dark pri- 



iv The Battle of the Amazons) j j 

mordial throat; it was the mockery of damnation, the mirth 
of Hell which derides man and his Fall. And as I looked 
around, I saw all the other men plunged in lust, coupling 
with the naked girls. 

A few officers were still manfully trying to fend off the 
naked bodies. "Hold out, force them back!" they called. 
But their cries grew feebler and feebler, until one com- 
mand after the other faded into lewd blubberings at some 
girl's lips. Already the first line of soldiers had been over- 
whelmed by the naked bodies. The Naked Battalion was 
advancing victoriously, breaching the line in place after 
place. The military cordon consisted of nothing but gaps; 
the battle had degenerated into a self-forgetful orgy. Only 
the senior commander still stood at his post, sternly thrust- 
ing the naked girls aside. Apparently a man had to be a 
senior commander to resist such temptations. But finally he 
too began to waver. Even our printed handbook of military 
regulations would have succumbed to such arts. 

The last command stuttered to a stop, the last row dis- 
integrated. The Amazons had overpowered our battalion. 

"Up, let's go!" Ludmilla commanded. Instantly, breasts 
tugged free from eager lips, hips from our hands, thighs 
from our thighs. And while lust held us stunned, the naked 
women ran as fast as their feet would carry them toward the 
exit from the Mashinka. The way into the town was open, 
and the nameless contagion raced with the girls toward 
Drohitz. 

Suddenly, from the direction of the warehouses, came the 
clattering of treads. Out of a cloud of dust, rows of tanks 
came rolling up. The reinforcements at last! 

The tanks barred the way, and the first warning salvo from 
their guns sent all the runaways fleeing back into the Ma- 
shinka. 

The appearance of new troops brought us back to our 
senses and restored discipline. We set about vigorously herd- 



j2 (The Silver Bacchanal 

ing the retreating girls into the houses. In a few minutes the 
main street of the quarter and all the side alleys were swept 
clear. The Mashinka was quiet again. 

The reinforcements took up positions at a distance. The 
tanks were placed athwart the streets, blocking them com- 
pletely, and drawn bayonets flashed threateningly. The Ma- 
shinka resembled a besieged fortress. No one could enter or 
leave it now. All of us, girls and soldiers, were caught in the 
whores' quarters, fellow captives, prisoners of the nameless 
disease. 

Dawn broke. 



Room Zero 



i 



. nside, in the Silver Hall, all was wild confu- 
sion after the defeat of the Amazons confusion multiplied 
a thousandfold by the reflections in the mirrors. Ringed by 
guards and continually being forced back, flushed, naked 
women rummaged frantically through heaps of dresses and 
undergarments, seeking their own things. The soldiers and 
girls who had been picked up in the streets and brought to 
the Silver Hall for observation were now jammed in with the 
rest. 

"Lay off pinching my ass, soldier boy." 

"Those are my panties; give them here, you crook!" 

"If only I hadn't listened to that fatheaded Ludmilla! Am 
I a sight now." 

"Stop pushing. . . . Who ya shoving?" 

"One more step and I'll have you put in chains, you 
sluts!" 

So it went, the babble, wails and curses of the now power- 
less but still enraged women blending with the rough snarls 
of the guards. 

In the vestibule stood a number of newly delivered 
stretcher cases who had to be moved into the rooms. In 
Madame's office orderlies came and went, commands rang 



tj* ( The Silver Bacchanal 

out, and the telephone shrilled. "Military headquarters? 
Senior Commander Mannsteufel? Here. I'm listening." 

The upper story rang with the wails, shrieks and whimper- 
ing of the sick. The regimental doctor and the medical aides 
rushed from one room to the next. 

"Ember, the senior commander wants to see you at once." 

"Ember, the doctor needs you upstairs." 

"Ember, make tracks to the vestibule. They don't know 
where to put the new stretchers." 

"Ember, hurry over to the Mirror Room. One of your 
men is monkeying with the girls. . . . The suspects are try- 
ing to break out." 

"Ember, Commander Konrad is worse. He's been asking 
for you." 

Summoned here, ordered there, needed here, wanted 
there, downstairs, upstairs, back and forth. From the babble 
and cursing of the Mirror Room to the snarling and ring- 
ing of the office, from the anonymous wails of the upper 
floors to the groaning pleas of Konrad: "Dummox, stay 
here, don't go!" 

"Can't you see I'm coming?" 

"Haven't you any sense of decency?" 

"No, no one is permitted to leave the room." 

"I'll be right back, Commander Konrad." 

"Rooms fourteen and seventeen are still free." 

"Very well, sir, I'll see that it's attended to, Commander 
Mannsteufel." 

"Corporal Barnabas? Tell him I'll be along as soon as I'm 
finished here." 

On days of breathless confusion like that, when you have 
to be seventeen places at once, time itself jumps out of its 
watchcase, ceases its measured pace and rushes out of sight 
hour after hour. 

It was already eight. 

"Ember, damn it all, where's your head? Didn't I order 



v Room Zero) ,-_. 

you to wake the mayor early so that he could inform the 
town officials? Fetch him at once/' 

I went to the pantry. 

"Where is the mayor?" I asked the waiter. 

"I haven't seen him. I suppose he's still sleeping." 

Goodness, what these civilians are capable of! I don't care 
how drunk a man was, or how much of a shock he'd had 
simply to sleep though this frightful night certainly took 
the constitution of a town official. 

"Where have you put him?" I asked the waiter. 

"In my room. Room zero." 

"What do you mean, room zero?" 

"Only the women's rooms have numbers in our house. 
Numbers one to twenty-nine are the girls, number thirty is 
Madame. A man doesn't count in a house like this." Karl 
added with a grin, "He's a nothing, zero." 

We had reached the room, and I dismissed him. I knocked 
on the door several times. "Time to get up, Albi," I called. 
No answer. My, but he slept soundly. I opened the door and 
went in. 

For a man with my professional experience, one look was 
enough to convince me that Albi's leaden sleep was ever- 
lasting. Purely for form's sake I felt his pulse, raised his eye- 
lids and took the waiter's shaving mirror from the night 
table, holding it in front of Albi's mouth. The mirror re- 
mained unclouded, the eye was fixed, the pulse zero. 

This was the second time since my encounter with Barna- 
bas that I was really shaken. Yet I was used to such things if 
anyone was. What with the countless corpses that had 
passed through my hands on the hill, nothing should have 
surprised me. Only two days ago, during the retreat to Dro- 
hitz, I had picked the stiffs up from the ground like so many 
dropped apples. And yet, standing before the lifeless mayor, 
it was something altogether different. I could not take my 
eyes off him, and weird ideas kept crowding into my head. 



jfi (The Silver Bacchanal 

This, for example: All the men I had disposed of in the 
field were corpses who had been marked out for that destiny 
from the beginning of their military careers. Way back in the 
barracks when they first put on their uniforms, they were 
donning their winding sheets. They had marched off into 
the field to the end that they might some day quit the serv- 
ice as corpses. From the first order, from the first act of 
obedience, with every "Forward, march!" they had drilled 
for the day of their death. So it had been with every mess 
call, with every act. From the first moment on, day by day 
and hour by hour, more and more had been subtracted from 
that sum which is called life: first the meat subtracted from 
the turnips, then the number of turnips, then half the water, 
then three quarters. At the same time there began a reducing 
of flesh, a waning of color, an evaporation of warmth and of 
mobility. So it went, subtraction, always more subtraction, 
until in the end only a tiny, half-rotten turnip and a few 
drops of foul water remained, only sunken cheeks and cold- 
numbed limbs were left. When death came, it was only a 
matter of drawing a line under the example and writing zero 
for the remainder. The only question was: What day, what 
hour? Today, tomorrow, next week, a year hence? For this 
great war went on and on, and even if there were an end to 
it, the next war would draw the line. 

But the situation was quite otherwise for a civilian, es- 
pecially for a mayor like Albi who was the very embodiment 
of civilian life. I could not help recalling how he had shone 
as town father on the parade ground, how we had cheered 
him at the banquet in the casino, how mightily he had 
drunk and slapped his thighs with laughter, and how merrily 
he had hopped around on the table top. 

No, here wartime Death had played one of his pertest 
tricks. Robust body, dignity, praise, carefree hopping, bliss- 
ful drunkenness this was the sum of a life of pleasure. And 
then to have it wiped out, just like that. . . . Also that he 



v Room Zero) >-,- 

should be the first, when Konrad and all the others who 
were stricken were still alive. That he should be the one to 
lead off the danse macabre! Perhaps he too had suffered, 
groaned and shrieked, without anyone's hearing him amidst 
the tumult of this past night. One thought alone consoled 
me. At least he had been spared the painful task of issuing 
orders for the town of Drohitz from the bordello. 

What would the senior commander say? "Impossible. 
Most regrettable. Something must be done at once." And 
those were actually his words when I brought him the news. 

"And without a moment's delay/' he added. "But what, 
and how?" 

"Yes, that is the question," Dr. Kapra, who happened to 
be in the office, agreed. 

"It will be impossible to keep Albi's death a secret. We'll 
have to inform the Drohitz town council." 

"Quite right," the doctor nodded. "But that means a 
post-mortem and making out a death certificate with all the 
data: cause of death, place, time. In other words, it means 
calling the disease by name, and that is what we want to 
avoid at any cost. You know what the consequences would 
be." 

"Of course: panic," the senior commander groaned. "Not 
to speak of the disastrous effect upon our army. Albi was a 
man with years of administrative experience; he would have 
known how to put a thing like this across to the towns- 
people. He was head of the town, after all. And now there is 
no head. I fancy we agree that the senior alderman isn't the 
man for a crisis. We've all seen what a namby-pamby he is. 
Didn't even dare come into the Mashinka with us." 

"If only we'd all been namby-pambies, then we wouldn't 
be in this mess." 

"Granted," the senior commander blurted out. "But 
that's beside the point. A man who skips out, no matter 
what the situation, is to my mind no man. Besides which 



$ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

Mardi is an idiot who'd be likely to spoil everything for 
us." 

"And yet I'm afraid we have no choice," Dr. Kapra re- 
plied. 

"What a hell of a business," the commander said. "Devil 
only knows what we can do." For a moment he sat with a 
look of utter perplexity. His saber nose seemed to be slip- 
ping back into its sheath. Meanwhile the doctor's glasses 
had dropped to the rug, and with blind helplessness his 
naked greenish eyes were searching for them on the floor. 

"Begging your pardon, sir, Commander Mannsteufel," I 
ventured, "a solution certainly will be found." 

He threw a reprimanding look at me. But almost instan- 
taneously the same words trickled like an echo from his own 
lips: "A solution will certainly be found." Abruptly he 
sprang to his feet and began pacing the office in marching 
tempo, hands clasped behind his back. "I have it!" he ex- 
claimed victoriously. "It's all very simple." 

Dr. Kapra had found his glasses; he donned them and 
listened eagerly as the commander continued: "The town 
of Drohitz will be placed under military administration. We 
will declare martial law, which means no questions asked, 
no explanations given. Orders will be issued and orders 
obeyed. That is all, gentlemen," he concluded, and with an 
imperious gesture, signaled that our presence was no longer 
desired. 

I followed the doctor out of the room. He was going up- 
stairs to look after his patients. 

"If Madame finds out that her house is harboring a 
corpse, on top of everything else, what a fuss she'll make," I 
said. 

"Don't worry, I gave her a double sedative; she'll stay un- 
der for quite a while," he replied. 

"And what is to be done with the body?" 

"You'll have to ask the senior commander about that." 



v Room Zero) ^ Q 

I turned and went back to the office. The commander 
was talking on the telephone with the town council. I 
waited until the conversation was over. 

"Well, what do you want now?" he asked me irritably. I 
had no sooner put my question about the dead man than 
he yelled, "Don't bother me with such trivialities. I have 
more important things to do now." He shoved me toward 
the door. 

The word "trivialities" aroused my ire. Only a man with a 
face like a planned offensive and a saber for a nose could 
muster such inhuman coarseness. At the banquet he had 
outdone himself to toast and compliment Albi, but now 
that the mayor was dead he had more important things on 
his mind. Surely, the declaration of martial law would avert 
many unpleasant complications, but there remained an 
equally essential question: What was to be done about the 
immediate cause of these complications, the dead mayor, 
Albi himself? We could not let him rot in the waiter's bed. 
Aside from all feelings of humanity, the dead man was after 
all the head of a town which had received us hospitably. A 
man like Albi could at least expect his guests and fellow rev- 
elers to give him a decent funeral. 

I decided to return to the office and bring up this "trivi- 
ality" once more, and not to be sent packing until the mat- 
ter had been settled one way or another. 

Naturally the senior commander was even more put out at 
seeing me. "Get out of here!" he roared. 

"No!" I said impudently, and did not stir. 

My boldness so stunned him that for a moment he stood 
gaping. I took advantage of his astonishment, and said, "We 
simply can't let Albi lie here like a dead dog. What is to be 
done with him?" 

"I don't know. Do what you like. I hereby place you in 
charge of all matters concerning the dead, with full powers 
to issue orders and requisition whatever you need." 



So ( The Silver Bacchanal 

"Very well, sir/' I snapped. "Would you permit me, sir, 
in my new capacity, to call headquarters and order a coffin 
with all necessary appurtenances?" 

"All right, but keep the call short; I have a hundred and 
one urgent matters to take care of." 

I put through my call. 

"Provisional headquarters of Senior Commander Manns- 
teufel speaking. We need coffins, etc., etc., urgently." 

At the word "coffins" the commander shot me an uneasy 
look. I realized that I had committed a slip of the tongue. 
Probably my experience on the hill, that when dying started 
it never remained singular, had led me willy-nilly to use the 
plural. In any case, it would do no harm for us to have a few 
coffins on hand. 

"All right, bury him, but don't attract attention," the 
commander dismissed me. 

I left the office with mixed feelings, partly glad that I was 
exempted from medical aide work and was, so to speak, my 
own master; partly sad because my new assignment was the 
same one I had performed on the hill. I had come from the 
theater of war into a peaceful town, from the realm of the 
dead to the realm of the living, or so I had thought. For a 
few hours it had looked as though my life was going to be 
something different from misery and shoveling graves for 
instance, eating, drinking, strolling, dancing and paying vis- 
its to bordellos. And now what was I in for? The old busi- 
ness: taking care of corpses. That seemed to be my fate, all 
right. 



I entered on my new duties. 

"Ember, hurry. A bad case. I don't know where to put the 
stretcher. Every room is full already." An aide stopped me. 

"Sorry, I've been given another assignment. Speak to the 
doctor about it." 



v Room Zero) Oj 

It is not possible to serve two masters at once, the dead 
and the living. 

Before I reached room zero, another aide stopped me. 
"Ember " 

"Sorry, I've " I began. 

"You must come at once," he interrupted. "Corporal Bar- 
nabas is asking for you." 

In all the commotion I had not had a chance to look in 
on him. "How is he?" I asked. 

"We don't know what to do with him. We can't hold him 
down." 

This was another matter, of course. I would have to see to 
this. 

As I started up the stairs, the aide told me that Barnabas, 
after his fit of laughter by the window, had collapsed from 
exhaustion. But by and by he had revived and had insisted 
that he wanted to get up and go out. 

"He's gone stark, raving mad," I said. "Oh, well, I'll calm 
him down." 

As we reached the corridor upstairs, I thought I heard 
Barnabas' rumbling laughter. I stopped. I was deeply con- 
cerned about him, but at the moment I felt that I could not 
endure his idiotic laugh. Because of the dead man. Granted, 
there had been dead men enough out there on the hill, and 
when Barnabas had laughed about that, I had not cared a 
hoot; at times I had even laughed along with him. Ap- 
parently these civilian surroundings were making me sud- 
denly aware of the majesty of death. I suppose one does feel 
more sensitive about death behind the lines. In any case, I 
knew that at the moment laughter was something that I 
could not face. 

"I just remembered I have something else most impera- 
tive," I blurted out. "Tell him I'll be along soon." With that, 
I left the surprised aide and hurried to room zero. 



8 2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

The problems awaiting me there kept my head whirling. 
Competent as I had been in my job at the front, I found 
myself facing decisions here which had simply not existed 
on the hill. For example, there was the question of terrain. 
On the hill that had been no fuss at all; everything, the 
whole military landscape, had been one great cemetery. But 
here it was different, all the more so since the Mashinka, as a 
result of the quarantine, was completely cut off from the 
town. To transfer the body to the Drohitz town cemetery 
was out of the question because of the danger of contagion. 
Where in the world was I to bury Albi in a quarter where 
the houses stood jammed right up against one another, 
these houses existing solely to purvey pleasure and serve 
vice? And then I had to do it without attracting attention. 
What a joker this one was! 

Embarrassing though it would be, I was already consider- 
ing whether I should not apply again to the senior com- 
mander, when the solution suddenly came to me. I had hap- 
pened to notice the window of room zero; it gave on the 
back yard. 

"Of course, in the yard, splendid!" I exclaimed delight- 
edly, quite forgetting that it is unseemly to rejoice loudly in 
the presence of the dead. 

The back yard seemed made for the burial. It was fairly 
large, extending all the way down to the river. Moreover the 
window was big enough for the coffin to be squeezed 
through. This would obviate the need to carry the body 
through the corridor. The whole funeral could be taken 
care of quietly and unobtrusively. 

In order to make certain, I estimated with professional 
acuity the probable dimensions of the coffin, and then meas- 
ured the window. Virtually cut to size for the dead man, I 
decided contentedly. Then I climbed out through the win- 
dow into the yard, to choose a suitable spot. The back yard 
was simply ideal for my purposes. There were high walls to 



v Room Zero) g* 

the right and left, and the river on the far end. The inter- 
ment could proceed without anyone's noticing. 

I had no sooner climbed back in through the window 
than an orderly knocked on the door and told me to report 
at once to the senior commander's office. 

"A call has just come from town headquarters that the 
coffins and all accessories will be delivered at the warehouse, 
just outside the cordon, at four o'clock/' the senior com- 
mander informed me. 

Four o'clock I felt a sudden stab. I had made a rendez- 
vous with Eve to meet her at the pastry shop, where she was 
going to introduce me to her friends. And while she waited 
there for me at four, I would be fetching coffins. 

I selected a few medical aides to help me with the load- 
ing. We were on the spot at four sharp. According to the 
medical staff's orders, the coffins had to be taken over in 
such a manner that the soldiers from the city side did not 
come into contact with our men. I had just finished arrang- 
ing with the officer in charge of the quarantine troops a kind 
of no-man's-land buffer strip when along came the truck 
with the coffins, shovels and ropes. While the other crew 
were unloading it, I observed a young man in a cassock who 
jumped down from the cab of the truck. I had forgotten to 
ask for a priest. The army coarsens, but the Church does 
not forget the salvation of her dead sons. 

After the others had unloaded their stuff and returned to 
the town side of the buffer strip, we went to collect the cof- 
fins. The young priest approached us. 

"I am telling you, Father," I heard the officer in charge 
call, "anyone who enters this area cannot return." 

"I go and remain where the Lord wills," the priest replied. 

He helped us carry the coffins. The strength of three men 
was concealed under that cassock, and the skill with which 
he juggled the coffins was so professional that even I, hard- 
bitten as I was in such matters, was impressed. 



$s ( The Silver Bacchanal 

There were four coffins. After they had been shifted to 
our side of the line, he turned to me. "Father Jacopo," he 
introduced himself. "I have been sent to bless the remains 
of the deceased and to give him a proper funeral." He mSde 
the sign of the cross above us. His fearlessness and the mild- 
ness of his voice affected us powerfully. We stood in silence 
for a moment with bowed heads. 

"Well, now let us go about our work," he said. 

"I am just wondering how we are going to carry these in 
without attracting attention. I don't know my way about 
here very well." 

"There is a small path along the river, which leads to 
Loglosov. Not many people ever use it," he suggested. 

One of the coffins, which contained all sorts of parapher- 
nalia, was heavier than the others. Father Jacopo insisted on 
shouldering this particular one. There was nothing for me to 
do but offer to carry one end. 

On the way to the river I struggled with myself for quite a 
while. Awkward as the subject was, it had to be broached, 
and so I asked whether he knew our destination. He 
nodded, and forged on without a word. 

It was clumsy and time-consuming, carrying those long 
boxes over the uneven slope and down the overgrown path 
by the river. 

Madame Renoir's house could not be missed. It stood a 
little apart from the row of houses of the Mashinka, and I 
remembered the riverside fagade from my tour of the back 
yard. "Here we are," I said. 

It was a steep climb from the river up to the house. We 
had to set the coffin down several times, in order to catch 
our breath. When we finally made it, we left the shovels in 
the yard. Then there was still the matter of lugging the cof- 
fins through the windows of room zero. Finally we were 
done with our task. 

After Father Jacopo had paused for a moment before the 



v Room Zero) o^ 

dead man's bed, spoken a few words of prayer and made the 
sign of the cross, he opened the lid of the heavy coffin and 
took from it a crucifix, a bottle of holy water, candles, a 
shroud in short, everything necessary for the ritual of bur- 
ial. He even produced a funeral garment, which had been 
provided by the town council, and all of the mayor's decora- 
tions. With a small sponge dipped in holy water, he once 
more made a cross over Albi's brow, chest, hands and feet. 
Then he knelt beside the bed in silent prayer. 

I signed to my men to follow me and leave him alone. 
One after the other, we climbed out through the window 
into the yard, and I led them to the spot I had selected for 
the grave. With a spade I marked out the exact outlines of 
the grave, and told them the proper depth. The soil was soft, 
and the digging went easily. Before I went, I said to them, 
"You might as well dig a second one while you're about it." 

"Do you think this stiff will need a spare?" Kalabas grum- 
bled. 

I pretended not to have heard his unseemly remark and 
went to the senior commander in order to consult with him 
on the time for the funeral. 

He decided on nine o'clock that night. Only the senior 
commander, Dr. Kapra and a few officers who had attended 
the banquet in the casino were to be present. 

There remained now the preparation of the body. When 
I re-entered room zero. Father Jacopo rose from his devo- 
tions. He felt that I had something to do in the room. I 
asked him to wait outside for a few minutes until I had laid 
out the body. He straightway offered to help me. 

"Thank you, no," I declined. In purely professional mat- 
ters I did not care for the assistance of amateurs. 

Enough corpses had passed through my hands, and I knew 
to my fingertips how to handle them. But when I now set 
about the work, I felt like a raw beginner. Out in the field I 
had taken the dead as I found them and dumped them into 



gfi (The Silver Bacchanal 

a hole without much fuss. With the mayor, however, it was 
not going to be so simple, of course. Ceremony was essential 
and this was something omitted from my education at the 
front. Here a civil, which was to say a dignified, laying-out 
was called for, and that meant washing the body, dressing 
it, and so on. Every single detail presented itself as a prob- 
lem. I had to think out a regular plan of work, in order not 
to overlook anything. I came close to calling Father Jacopo 
back. But my professional pride restrained me. 

It took some time before I had stripped the crushed, wine- 
stained clothes from Albi's body, and put him into clean 
garments. I had just finished pinning the medals and rib- 
bons to his chest when the diggers, having finished their 
work, climbed in the window. They helped me lift the body, 
whose weight seemed to have been increased by death, from 
the bed to the coffin. We placed the two candles beside the 
coffin and lit them. 

After we had washed our hands in carbolic, I told my men 
to go and wait until I called them. I wanted to have a few 
minutes alone, so as to say my personal goodbye. But then I 
again found myself in a curious predicament. Out at the 
front one forgets the simple vocabulary of the heart, and so 
I did not know what farewell wishes to express to someone 
setting out on a journey with no return. The difficulty was 
all the greater because my intimacy with Albi was confined 
to the events of the previous night, to his hopping and danc- 
ing in the casino and his behavior in the Silver Hall. 

"Albi, I'd like, I mean I want to tell you ..." I began 
several times, unable to find suitable words of farewell. I 
was on the point of giving up when a sudden inspiration 
came to my aid. Softly, I started humming the song about 
Eve's daughter, which had given him such a kick over at the 
casino. I had just reached the third line when there was a 
knock on the door. "One moment," I called, and hastily, al- 
most inaudibly, I finished up the song. "There," I said, whis- 



v Room Zero ) gj 

pering, "and now so long, Albi." 

I called, "Come in!" and Father Jacopo entered. 

Naturally, I had faced the coffin in the wrong direction, 
and the candles, too, did not stand where they belonged. Af- 
ter Father Jacopo had arranged everything properly, he 
folded the dead man's hands and placed the crucifix on his 
chest. Then he knelt at the foot of the coffin, and began the 
psalm: "Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord, listen to 
my voice . . ." His fervor increasing from word to word, he 
continued: "In loving kindness, O God, have mercy on the 
soul of Thy servant, rid him from every fetter of his sins, so 
that he may become worthy to pass from death to eternal 
life through our Lord." 

It is unbelievable, what transfiguring power lies in the 
prayer of a man who truly knows how to pray. It was as if 
the house of ill fame in which I stood, the disease, the war, 
the misery and confusion of this miserable world had all 
vanished, as if I had escaped somehow from my own sinful- 
ness and was transported to purer regions. Before I knew 
what was happening, I too was kneeling, and was praying 
with all the intensity with which I used to pray beside my 
mother in childhood. 

I was lost in prayer still when the door opened. An aide 
beckoned to me to join him in the corridor. There he whis- 
pered to me that the girl we had found in front of the mir- 
ror was dead, and that I must remove her at once, since the 
room was urgently needed for new patients. I had no choice 
but to follow him at once. 

As we climbed the stairs, I felt a little disturbed at the 
thought of having to pass by Barnabas' room. Luckily for me, 
he was asleep. 

I had realized at once that the dead girl would have to be 
moved as unobtrusively as possible to room zero, in order 
to avert a panic. Of course the mayor was laid out there. 
But what did that matter? Had we not, up on the hill, bur- 



88 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

ied colonels and privates side by side, ignoring differences 
of rank? The same principle would have to apply to civil- 
ians. Whore or mayor in death was true equality. 

"Help me move her down to room zero," I ordered the 
aide. 

Father Jacopo's response assured me that I had acted 
properly in deciding to let the girl share the room with the 
mayor. As soon as we set down the stretcher, he came to her, 
made the sign of the cross, and launched on his prayers. 

I knew how to lay hands on living women, but I was to- 
tally unskilled at handling them dead. Father Jacopo no- 
ticed my clumsiness. "Let me do it," he said. 

I stood by, watching him with admiration. Only someone 
who disregards the difference between the sexes, and is con- 
cerned only for the salvation of souls, could have performed 
his task with such supernal ease. Tenderly as one would lift 
a child, he took the girl's lifeless body in his arms to bed her 
down in the coffin for her eternal rest. I wondered where to 
put the coffin so that it would not be in the way during the 
mayor's funeral ceremony. Father Jacopo's spontaneous ac- 
tion saved me the necessity for decision. He pushed the cof- 
fin alongside the mayor's, and placed one of the candles be- 
side the girl's body. 

"Do you know her name?" he asked me. 

I had found her lying unconscious in front of a mirror 
during our inspection tour; beyond that, I didn't know a 
thing about her. 

"Then I will call her the Unknown," he said, and kneel- 
ing by her coffin he prayed with the same earnestness I had 
seen him display for the mayor, prayed that her sins might 
be washed away and her soul received in Paradise. I also 
knelt and prayed with him. 

The senior commander and the other funeral guests, who 
had been waiting for me, could not understand what had 
been holding things up. Grown impatient, they now ap- 



v Room Zero) Q 

peared in the room and started at the sight of the two cof- 
fins. From the commander's aghast expression, I could guess 
his question: "Ember, what is the meaning of this?" But 
there was no chance for him to say this. 

Such was the compelling power of Father Jacopo's pray- 
ing that even that martinet Mannsteufel, not to speak of 
the others, were moved to drop to their knees. With equal 
respect, they crossed themselves as Father Jacopo called out 
the names "Albert Johannes Gospoda" and "the Unknown." 

Although the funeral which followed had some unusual 
features, the coffins being tipped one to the right and the 
other to the left in order to be maneuvered through the win- 
dow into the yard, the solemnity of it all surpassed that of 
any state funeral. The holiness that radiated from Father 
Jacopo was that of a man whose eyes view the things of this 
earth in the transfiguring light of eternity, and to whom even 
this window funeral was but a final stage of the departed 
souls' journey to God. 

The same elevated mood prevailed in the garden during 
the burial. Albi had been among us little more than twenty- 
four hours, and the girl was an anonymous prostitute; and 
yet we felt choked and moved, as though we were burying a 
close relative. 

When the priest had blessed the ground and pronounced 
the last words, many of us were in tears. Dr. Kapra's green- 
ish eyes were tinged with red. Even the diggers sobbed aloud 
as they lowered the coffins into the graves, returning the 
mortal remains of man and woman to the maternal earth. 
Only the senior commander preserved his composure. 

Finally we climbed back through the window to prepare 
ourselves for the day to come. 



VI 

Aftermath 



T 

Xhe 



.he senior commander and his officers went 
back to work. Dr. Kapra lingered for a while. With the per- 
ishing of the mayor and the girl, Death had, as it were, made 
his debut in the Mashinka. No one could say what his next 
step would be, and this uncertainty created a kind of com- 
radeship among the doctor, the priest and myself. There 
were so many details to consider and discuss. 

After a while, however, the conversation began to drag. 
Dr. Kapra could barely manage to hold himself upright. His 
nose, to begin with, refused to serve as a perch for his pince- 
nez. He removed the glasses, only to have his small green 
eyes go on strike. They almost fell shut. After all, the doctor 
was no youngster. 

The most contagious of diseases is no more contagious 
than yawning, and the doctor had barely finished one yawn 
when he started on another. Weariness had overcome me 
also, and I was greatly relieved when Dr. Kapra said, "I be- 
lieve it is time to knock off now and have a bit of rest." The 
only question was, where? 

"You need not worry about me; I don't mind at all stay- 
ing up for a night/' the priest said. 

"I suppose I shall be able to find a corner somewhere," 



vi Aftermath) gj 

the doctor mused. "And what about you?" he asked me as 
he started toward the door. 

'Til manage somehow/' I assured him. 

Naturally there was an unoccupied bed right here in 
room zero. But dead-tired as I was, I could not bring myself 
to use it. Of course I was exposed to the disease in spite of 
all the carbolic, and it would be a matter of pure luck if I 
came out of this mess safe and sound. But to stretch right 
out in a bed where someone had died a short while ago no, 
thank you. After all, even at the front I hadn't made a prac- 
tice of standing up as a target for the enemy guns. 

I decided to sleep on the floor. But as I was pushing the 
two remaining coffins aside to make room, an idea occurred 
to me. Why sleep on the hard, dusty floor when here were 
clean coffins standing vacant? Why not, after all? If I died 
here in rear echelon, a coffin would be my resting place any- 
how. 

"I have found a bed for myself," I said to Father Jacopo, 
pointing to the coffin. I could see from his expression that 
he thought it frivolous of me to misuse the coffin, intended 
for eternal rest, for a brief night's sleep. But he seemed to 
sympathize with my exhaustion, and did not demur. 

I removed my boots and jacket, opened my collar and lay 
down. I was not too comfortable, of course. The coffin had 
been built for rigid bodies, and did not leave much room for 
movement. But a man as tired as I was could overlook such 
trivialities. The chief thing was that I could stretch out full 
length. 

In spite of my leaden limbs, however, my mind would not 
settle down to rest at once. As soon as my eyes fell shut, 
the fantasies of half-slumber began. A host of broken images 
of the day's events flitted in wild confusion past my closed 
eyelids. They condensed into a cluster that whirled faster 
and faster in a circle, until at last I could scarcely distinguish 
among them. When the maelstrom stopped at last, the im- 



02 (The Silver Bacchand 

ages lay scattered about, transformed into opened packages 
and bags. To my astonishment I saw in one of the bags the 
porcelain Chinese for whom I had searched in vain in my 
room at the castle. So this was where he had gone! As soon 
as he realized I had caught him, he sprang in a single leap 
to the foot of my coffin and began waggling his head for all 
he was worth. 

At first I was amused at the way he went on waggling so 
conscientiously, but after a while I began feeling bored. My 
stiff position hindered my turning my own head away. And 
so, in spite of my weariness, I forced my eyes open, to dis- 
miss the image of the porcelain Chinese. I caught sight of 
Father Jacopo, bent over his prayerbook, murmuring softly 
to himself. Goodness, a man of God had things easy; seated 
or standing, he could take his night's rest in prayer. Again 
my eyes fell shut, and immediately the porcelain Chinese 
was back at the foot of the coffin, rocking his head back and 
forth. 

I decided to get up, sit down beside Father Jacopo, and 
keep vigil and pray with him, to cling like a child to his cas- 
sock, so that he could spread his peace over me. The spirit 
was willing, but the damned flesh . . ! My body resisted 
like an obstinate mule. In the end even my eyelids refused 
to open again, and there I lay, utterly at the mercy of that 
porcelain Chinese. 

What a torment! It is sheer hell, I thought to myself, and 
in that moment hell opened before me, as though I had 
summoned it up by my thoughts. Instead of the one porce- 
lain Chinese, hundreds, a whole army of them, with heads 
waggling reproachfully, stood at the foot of my coffin. I re- 
alized at once that they were devils from hell, disguised as 
porcelain Chinese. 

Then suddenly the rocking heads turned into sound. At 
first it was like porcelain jingling, but it swiftly revealed it- 
self as laughter, that same infernal laughter that had pealed 



vi Aftermath) Q- 

from Barnabas as he leaned out of the window above the 
street during the battle of the Amazons. 

So this was what the torments of hell were like. Head-wag- 
gling porcelain Chinese were the devils; roaring laughter 
was the damnation. My body lay leaden and cramped, and 
because it could not shiver externally, it shivered internally, 
and my teeth, too, chattered like mad, inwardly. 

If only there had been nothing more than that. But there 
was! A few steps away from Hell that gaped at the foot of 
the coffin Heaven and all its angels surrounded the table 
where Father Jacopo was praying. Although Heaven was 
within arm's length of me, I could not reach it. I heard the 
priest intone a song, and the angels joined him in chorus. 
As though pitted against each other, the angels sang and the 
porcelain devils whinnied. Angelic cantata and diabolic 
laughter clashed. And the greatest torment of all, the tor- 
ment of torments, was that Father Jacopo's Heaven was 
within reach of my Hell. 

Father Jacopo could not, would not leave me here in my 
damnation. I cried imploringly to him. I begged and clam- 
ored, but my pleas remained soundless and did not reach 
him. My throat and lips were shut, sealed. 

I began to blame the priest for my predicament. If he had 
known that it was a sacrilege to lie down in the coffin, why 
had he not kept me from it? Out of consideration for my 
exhaustion? Was that supposed to be Christian charity? I 
even suspected that he was letting me sample these tor- 
ments of hell on purpose, as a kind of penance for my sins. 
But then what exactly were those sins of mine? Was it so 
sinful that I had visited this house of ill fame, when I hadn't 
had a girl since the start of the war? And when you came 
right down to it, what sins had I committed here? Mental 
sins at best, and was that so bad that a fellow had to endure 
the torments of hell? I felt close to rebelling against so cruel 
a divine order. But then I started in alarm at these ideas. 



q* ( The Silver Bacchanal 

Perhaps this was the very sin that would consign me to the 
porcelain hell forever. My indignation swerved abruptly into 
penitential submission, and I promised to lead a virtuous 
life if the porcelain devils would ever release me again. 

As though my vow had been heard, the diabolic laughter 
ceased, the wriggling heads of the porcelain Chinese van- 
ished. Only the angelic choir was audible now, and sang me 
into a restful sleep. 

I awoke with a shrill "Get up, get up, it's urgent" ringing 
in my ears. Luckily, it wasn't me the insistent voice was rous- 
ing, but the doctor, who had apparently found no place up- 
stairs and had followed my lead, choosing the other empty 
coffin as a bed for the night. 

The medical aide who had come for him was trying in 
vain to wake him. I knew that Dr. Kapra was a heavy sleeper, 
and so I pulled myself up, lurched out of the coffin, and did 
as I had seen Madame Renoir do: I rocked and shook the 
doctor and pulled the shroud away from him until at last he 
had to rouse himself and followed the man upstairs. 

As soon as they were gone, Father Jacopo returned to his 
vigil, and I lay down in the coffin again. I was going to catch 
up on my sleep. 

Dawn was already breaking when I awoke. Sitting up, I 
looked out through the window and saw Father Jacopo in 
the back yard, walking up and down between the two graves, 
praying. Everything was so peaceful that I lay back once 
more to enjoy the stillness. The rays of the rising sun fell 
upon my stomach, and immediately it surged into a wild agi- 
tation. Up on the hill it had accepted emptiness, but not 
here in this civilian environment. The inordinate hunger 
that suddenly assailed me brought me swiftly to my feet. I 
decided to go to the pantry and see what I could do about a 
warm breakfast. 

The morning appetite of the wearied inmates of the Silver 



vi Aftermath) g- 

Hall had apparently matched mine, for veritable orgies had 
been celebrated in that pantry. There was scarcely anything 
left for a late-comer like myself. I was about to resign myself 
when I discovered some left-over porridge in a pot that had 
been pushed aside. The stuff was cold and already hardened 
into lumps, but I knew from experience that anything tastes 
like a delicacy to a hungry man. I was just scraping the last 
bits of porridge out of the pot when I heard footsteps and 
voices. I thought I recognized Madame's voice. Good Lord, 
if she caught me here, what a storm would burst. Oh well, 
no matter, it was already too late to escape: I had barely 
time to establish innocence by ridding myself of the pot. 
Then the door opened, and there stood Madame Renoir, 
accompanied by the waiter. 

She looked totally changed. Her hair was unkempt. She 
was wearing a loose dressing gown and worn high-heeled 
mules. She looked absently around, as though she had not 
noticed my presence. 

"Not until Mother's asleep, Adolar . . . through the 
back garden gate," she whispered mysteriously. "But take 
care not to make any noise, or you'll wake her." She smiled 
roguishly, like a young girl. 

The waiter signed to me to remain still. He addressed her 
in a cajoling tone of voice. "You must be a good girl, Rosa- 
lind darling, and wait patiently," he said reassuringly. He 
sat her down on a bench. Then he came over to me and 
whispered, "It has all been too much for the poor soul. You 
understand . , ." He made a motion with his finger to indi- 
cate that she had lost her wits. 

"Who is this Adolar?" I asked. 

"He must have been her first lover, back in Constanti- 
nople, where she comes from," the waiter explained. "She 
recognizes nobody, doesn't know where she is, and imagines 
she is a girl. On the whole, it's lucky she doesn't see what 
has happened to her house." He glanced around, and I re- 



gfi (The Silver Bacchanal 

alized at once that he was looking for the porridge. "I put it 
aside for her specially where the devil . . ." he murmured. 
Then he noticed the empty pot. He fixed his eyes upon me, 
half questioning, half reproachful. I felt utterly humiliated. 
"See that she doesn't leave here while I fetch fresh porridge 
from the storeroom," he said, and left me alone with Mad- 
ame Renoir. 

I felt rather queer. This was my first encounter with a 
madwoman. As soon as the waiter had left, she tried to get 
up. I rushed over to her to keep her seated. 

"No, no, Adolar," she fended me off. "Don't come so 
close, something might happen. Mother . . ." And then, 
abruptly. "Oh, Adolar, I can't stand it any longer." And she 
threw her arms around me and pressed me to her. 

I was greatly relieved when the waiter returned and I was 
able to clear out. 

I decided to look in on my two proteges, Barnabas and 
Konrad. I had promised them last night that I would be 
back soon. But as I passed the Mirror Room I heard a din as 
if the world were flying apart. I had at least to peep in to see 
what was going on. 

I had entered only out of curiosity. But things were in 
such a state that no one, not even I though officially the 
living did not concern me could have played the part of 
the indifferent spectator. Say what you will about me, no 
one can deny that I'm always ready to help in an emergency. 
Within a few minutes I was right in the midst of the bustle. 
Naturally Lieutenant Waldo, who was in charge of the 
room, took advantage of my helpful spirit. "Ember here, 
Ember there, Ember this, Ember that" the usual refrain 
xang in my ears. 

I was just issuing instructions to some newly arrived medi- 
cal aides when the door was flung open. I caught my breath. 
In each of the mirrors I saw Madame Renoir, wrapped in 
her loose dressing gown, smiling abstractedly to herself as she 



vi Aftermath) Q ^ 

tripped straight into the crowd. Suddenly she saw herself 
in the mirror and started back as if she had met a terrify- 
ing stranger. She looked to the right and to the left, and 
finding herself surrounded by the same mirror image she 
screeched, "That woman wants to kill me," and collapsed in 
a heap on the floor. There she lay motionless, curled up with 
her head buried in her lap. Everyone shrank away from her. 
The lieutenant ran forward to pick her up. But she lay in an 
obstinate embryonic position and refused to stir. While 
Waldo was trying to revive her, the door was again flung 
open and the waiter came rushing in, panting. 

"A fine business," the lieutenant growled at him. "I gave 
you strict orders to prevent her from coming into this 
room." 

"Had a call of nature, sir; I'm only human, you know," 
the waiter stammered. 

"Orders are orders," the lieutenant cut him off. 

The waiter knelt on the floor beside Madame Renoir. "Be 
nice and come along with Adolar," he urged her. She rose 
obediently, took his arm and left the room, smiling vaguely. 

"Our poor Madame!" the girls wailed. 

"It's you who have done this to her, you beasts," Lud- 
milla burst out, and since I was right in back of her she 
turned and gave me a stinging slap in the face. Two aides 
who were standing beside me pushed her aside. She kicked 
and struggled. I made use of the tumult to slip away, and 
went upstairs. 

The doctor had quieted Barnabas with a strong sedative. 
He was sleeping, and the aide on duty told me that his con- 
dition had shown no particular change. 

"When he wakes up, tell him I was here and will come 
back later," I said. 

Konrad was in a sad state, but I could see that for the 
present I need not worry about his coming under my pro- 
fessional ministrations. Of course he started to complain 



gg (The Silver Bacchanal 

as soon as he caught sight of me. "Dummox, don't go, 
stay!" he pleaded, seizing my hand. I couldn't simply leave 
him lying there, and so I decided to spend a few minutes 
with him. But almost immediately an aide appeared to sum- 
mon me to the doctor. 

"It seems to be starting in earnest/' Dr. Kapra declared. 
"You'll soon have work to do." He drew a slip of paper from 
his pocket. "Six on the critical list. Four of them army men. 
I think you should order a few more coffins, so that you 
won't run short." 

As we were talking, an orderly came along with a request 
for the doctor to report to the commander's office. We went 
down together. 

In Mannsteufel's office several of the officers were already 
assembled, and others followed us in. The senior com- 
mander stood behind a table, his right fist propped on the 
table top, and waited until everyone had arrived. Then he 
spoke in brisk tones. "Well, things are starting to look more 
organized, gentlemen. A little more perseverance and disci- 
pline, and we'll have this thing licked. At any rate we'll be 
able to confine this business right here in the Mashinka. 
Let us confer on the next steps to be taken. You, Lieutenent 
Waldo, see that " The telephone rang. He lifted the re- 
ceiver. 

"Listening . . . what's that . . . what are you saying?" 
he exclaimed into the mouthpiece. "Incredible. ... A fine 
mess. Why does it have to take place today? Couldn't they 
wait a few days? I don't understand. . . . What do you 
mean, custom? Nonsense, in a state of emergency, customs 
don't exist. Well, I've always said that the Church only 
makes trouble for the nation. . . . But that is absolutely 
out of the question, understand! Sheer madness! Tell them I 
said so." 

With each passing minute the senior commander grew 



vi Aftermath) QQ 

more agitated. The whole topography of his face quaked. 
"What does that mean, the populace demands it?" he bel- 
lowed into the telephone. "In a state of emergency the popu- 
lace has no say at all, not to speak of demanding. . . . 
Damn it all, hasn't the administration any authority? I tell 
you, it's hell to have anything to do with civilians. . . . 
Those bastards don't know the word 'discipline/ " He 
took a breath. "All right, let them come. I'll see to it that 
the aldermen are straightened out, let me tell you. Three 
o'clock then, outside the cordon. . . . Idiotic bastards," he 
snorted again, slammed down the receiver, and tramped 
furiously back and forth in the room. 

Naturally we were on tenterhooks to know what was up. 
But it took a while before he simmered down enough to 
speak at all, and even then we had to piece together a string 
of incoherent phrases before we understood what had made 
him blow his top. 

That morning a requiem mass for the mayor had been 
scheduled at the cathedral. Although it had only been 
planned for close relations and friends, half the town had 
shown up. The cathedral was jampacked, and throngs of 
Drohitzers had even gathered outside in the square. During 
the mass the mayor's sister had broken down in bitter sob- 
bing, and that had started the ball rolling. 

"Where is our mayor?" someone had shouted from a back 
row, and soon the whole church was resounding with the 
cry: "He ought to be buried here in town." The priests suc- 
ceeded in quieting the tumult and completing the requiem, 
but as soon as they stepped away from the altar the storm 
broke again, louder than ever. "We want to give our mayor 
a decent burial!" the crowd shouted. Cathedral and square 
roared with the cry; and in a moment the crowd was surging 
toward the town hall. 

The senior alderman stepped out on the balcony and 
promised the overwrought citizenry that a deputation from 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

the town fathers would be sent to the cordoned area to 
demand, in the name of Drohitz, surrender of the body 
and transfer of it to the Gospoda family vault. 

"And that's how the matter stands/' the senior com- 
mander concluded. "At three o'clock I shall have the pleas- 
ure of receiving the officials of the town near the store- 
houses. But if they think they are going to be taking the 
mayor back, they're in for a mighty surprise. My job is to 
maintain the quarantine without a break. Without a break, 
I say. I don't give a hang what the Drohitzers demand. 
They're all worked up about its being a disgrace for the 
town to have their mayor buried in the Mashinka. Ridicu- 
lous! If it was good enough for a national hero like Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Natonek to have a few lumps of mud thrown 
over him on a filthy field, then it's good enough for the 
mayor of Drohitz to be buried in the back yard of the Silver 
Hall. What difference does it make? The earth is the same 
earth everywhere. All we need now is to have the disease 
carried into the town, eh, Doctor?" He appealed to Dr. 
Kapra. When the doctor hesitated, he went on, "Whatever 
they say, it's no and no again. No transfer, not even in a 
hermetically sealed coffin. He stays where he is, and that is 
all there is to it. Well, we'll resume our conference later, 
gentlemen." 

While the others were filing out, I stayed and asked per- 
mission to telephone town for more coffins. 

Delivery of the coffins was set for one o'clock. I appeared 
punctually with my men at the cordon around the ware- 
house, but the truck was slow in coming. An hour and a half 
passed, and still it had not arrived. 

Once the civil order starts breaking down, sense of duty, 
promises and agreements cease to mean anything. Maybe 
the coffin makers were up in arms along with all the other 
citizens of Drohitz; maybe the coffin dealer, amid all the tur- 



vi Aftermath) IOI 

moil, had forgotten to put the order through. At any rate, we 
seemed to be waiting in vain. 

I had just about made up my mind to give up and leave 
when I saw the truck approaching from the town. As the 
men started unloading the coffins the voice of the quaran- 
tine officer rang out: "One side, clear the way." 

The deputation from town hove in sight, and almost at 
the same moment the senior commander, flanked by two of- 
ficers, came striding down the main street of the bordello 
district. I would have to wait until after the meeting, before 
I could take over my coffins. As it turned out, that unforget- 
table scene was worth waiting for. 

Behind the representatives of the town, who marched for- 
ward in black frock coats and bowlers, thronged deputies 
from the Drohitz retail merchants' council, the innkeepers, 
the craft guilds and labor unions, the charitable and cul- 
tural organizations and the glee clubs. There were commit- 
tee ladies wearing veils and troops of school children led by 
their teachers. Among the schoolgirls I caught sight of my 
orchard, my Eve, draped in black mourning. The whole 
crew from the parade ground had appeared, it seemed, and a 
sea of black frock coats, veils, bands of crepe and black dra- 
peries surged toward us from beyond the cordon. 

Just as the Drohitzers in honor of our arrival had dressed 
up in all their colorful finery, so they now appeared to have 
dug out every inch of black cloth in their shops or cup- 
boards, and brought it along to the quarantine cordon. 

Our senior commander had, of course, not reckoned on 
what Mayor Gospoda had meant to his people of Drohitz. 
This business was not going to be as simple as the com- 
mander had imagined. I was burning with curiosity to see 
how the commander would adhere to his policy in the face 
of such a tremendous display of sorrow. 

After a formal bow, Mardi, the senior alderman, stepped 
forward and in a quivering voice read the text of a petition 



2Q2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

of all the people of Drohitz, demanding transfer of the 
mayor's body from the Mashinka to his family vault. 

Then the bishop spoke and asked in the name of Chris- 
tian charity that the beloved father of their city be buried in 
the hallowed soil of Drohitz cemetery. Whereupon the en- 
tire administration, all the clubs and organizations and all 
the black-draped delegations, broke into violent sobs. 

One would have to be inhuman, I thought, to refuse the 
plea of the grief-stricken people of Drohitz. But the senior 
commander was not human; he was a martinet from top to 
toe. That, and nothing else. The whole universe might wail, 
but his job was to do what was best for the army. Like a 
statue he stood upright and untouched through it all. And 
then, in a steely voice that brooked no contradiction, he 
said: "The deceased will remain where he is, in the inter- 
ests of the army command and of our country." 

"In the interest of our country!" the chief of protocol 
bawled, to everyone's embarrassment. 

With a supreme disdain for the mourning crowd, the sen- 
ior commander about-faced and, flanked by his adjutants, 
strode back into the Mashinka. 



VII 



The Mayor's 
Creatures 



N, 



aturally things had been fairly hectic since 
we had returned from the cordon with our load of new cof- 
fins. But whatever the to-do on the premises, whether the 
delivery of fresh cases, brawls in the Silver Hall, the sudden, 
uncanny appearance of Madame, or death agonies in the 
sickrooms all this seemed of little moment by comparison 
with the disturbing news that kept reaching us from the 
town. 

It began with a report of the sudden death of the chief of 
protocol. That, in itself, the army could have borne without 
a tremor. One patriotic parrot more or less really did not 
signify. But the circumstances of his death had various con- 
sequences which our commander could not possibly ignore. 

It all started with an utterly senseless story bruited about 
by a night watchman an ignorant peasant he was. During 
his rounds, he declared, he had noticed that a light was still 
burning at an unusually late hour in Magados' office. When 
he entered to see whether there was any trouble, he found 
the chief of protocol lying doubled up with pain across his 
desk. The watchman carried him home, and was holding up 
his lantern, trying to locate the light switch, when to his hor- 
ror what should he see in the darkness but the mayor, ac- 



2QA (The Silver Bacchanal 

companied by a painted girl. The mayor even spoke, ad- 
dressing these words to the protocol chief: "I need you. Fol- 
low me/' When the watchman at last collected himself suf- 
ficiently to find and switch on the light, the protocol chief 
was stretched out stiffly on the floor. The doctor who came 
to the watchman's summons could do nothing but confirm 
that he was dead. 

This fantastic tale rapidly circulated through the town, 
and in the case of a good many Drohitzers was swallowed 
hook, line and sinker. 

"What utter, hair-raising nonsense. Impossible to under- 
stand how anyone can take such stuff seriously," the senior 
commander grumbled. "There we have it again you see 
how backward our provinces are. Walking dead! What will 
we have next?" 

But when a few of the officers gave vent to dutiful chuck- 
les, he stopped them with an angry glance. "There's nothing 
funny about this, gentlemen. It's a serious matter, and we 
shall have to deal with it at once." 

Mannsteufel's infallible instinct for anything that might 
spell trouble for the army warned him immediately of the 
ground swell of dissatisfaction that had given rise to these 
rumors. 

"The whole affair is nothing but a malicious fiction 
cooked up in order to force us to transfer the mayor's body 
to town," he reasoned. "But if that's what they're counting 
on, they've run into the wrong man." 

He ordered Dr. Zitrom by telephone to determine imme- 
diately the natural cause of Magados' death, and to publish 
the results of his investigation, to dispel this idiotic supersti- 
tion. 

Idiotic superstition, of course walking dead, what non- 
sense, I said to myself. Nevertheless I was startled about the 
mayor's having been accompanied by a painted girl, al- 
though neither the night watchman nor anyone else in the 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) I OS 

town could possibly know that we had buried the little 
whore from the Mashinka beside the mayor. Naturally I re- 
frained from mentioning this to anyone; I wouldn't want 
people to think I was as backward and superstitious as the 
populace of Drohitz. 

Dr. Zitrom's investigation did not lead to the hoped-for 
result. The chief of protocol had no friends or relatives who 
could make a statement. Documents had been his only near 
and dear ones. The solitary witness of his death was the 
night watchman, and this man reiterated his wild story. 

'These civilians/' the senior commander ranted. "Why 
did the good Lord ever create them?" Everyone was still 
pondering this question when a new civilian rumor started 
circulating. 

The night watchman's wife, we were informed over the 
telephone, had been in her kitchen preparing supper for 
her husband before he started on his evening round. Sud- 
denly she heard her husband's voice from the parlor raised 
in a peculiar wail. Running in, she saw the mayor accom- 
panied by the painted girl and the dead chief of protocol. If 
she was to be believed, the mayor had told her husband to 
follow him, and had stood by, as if waiting, until Alois lay 
lifeless on the floor. 

"That's the limit!" the senior commander exclaimed. 
"Something radical has to be done before this superstition 
spreads any further. I'll show this town who I am!" 

He instantly phoned Mardi, the senior alderman, and in- 
structed him in the army's name to use the whole weight of 
municipal authority to scotch these and any similar rumors. 
Apparently Mardi made some remonstrance at his end of 
the line, for the commander blasted off: "Damn it to hell, 
any fool can squash such balderdash. I'll expect a report 
from you this evening." 

After the senior commander had set down the receiver, 
Dr. Kapra cleared his throat. With some timorousness, he 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

said, "What I suspect is far more serious than any silly ru- 
mors. I hardly dare to put it in words, and yet the conclu- 
sion is perfctly obvious." 

"Well, out with it." the commander exclaimed impa- 
tiently. "What is so obvious?" 

"That it is no mere matter of chance that the night watch- 
man should follow the chief of protocol. At least in this case 
it would seem to be contagion." 

"You don't mean to say that it's the same disease!" the 
commander exploded. 

"That is precisely what I fear. And of course it's far more 
urgent, you'll grant, to determine the fact of the matter than 
to go after this rumor business." 

The senior commander almost fell from his chair. "That 
would be hellish," he stammered. 

When Dr. Kapra telephoned Dr. Zitrom to inform him of 
his suspicion, Zitrom replied that the possibility had already 
occurred to him. He was taking the necessary steps, and 
would report as soon as he had finished the post-mortem. 

We were in the midst of a keen discussion of the possible 
consequences if Dr. Zitrom did confirm the presence of the 
disease in town when an aide came to call the doctor, who 
beckoned to me to follow him. 

Black Narcissus was in the throes of death. I waited until 
it was over, and then set to work, aiming to finish up as 
quickly as possible so that I could return to the office and be 
present when Dr. Zitrom's call came. But there were all sorts 
of obstacles. Things I ordinarily did as a matter of routine I 
now attacked so clumsily that I had to repeat my work two 
and three times over. We also had no graves in reserve; I had 
two more dug at once just in case. The fellows worked at a 
snail's pace, of course. And it seemed to me that Father 
Jacopo's pious ritual was dragging. Despite my respect for 
him and his office, I stood on pins and needles during the 
prayers. I couldn't very well urge him to hurry, but he had 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) IO7 

no sooner said the last word than I barked at the fellows to 
lower the coffin into the grave, cover it with earth and get 
the burial over with. 

Then I rushed back to the office, feeling sure that Dr. 
Zitrom must long since have called. As I approached the 
door, it opened and an aide came forward to meet me. "I 
was just looking for you in there, Ember. You must come at 
once. Commander Konrad has kicked off." 

"Konrad?" That really gave me a shock. "Impossible. 
When? How?" I hurried upstairs. How strange, it flashed 
through my mind: Black Narcissus and now Konrad the 
two whose embrace had started this whole mess. And in 
such quick succession, first she and then he, as though they 
had arranged a rendezvous to go on sleeping together in 
death. 

When I entered the room and saw the commander, his 
fever-crusted mouth gaping, lying there lifeless, I was smitten 
by pangs of conscience for not having devoted enough time 
to him lately. We two were really the only men from the 
hill who actually belonged together except for Barnabas, 
anyway. And yet I had callously abandoned him in his hour 
of trial. Good God, how hard it is being human. I despised 
myself. Never would I live this down, never regain my self- 
respect. 

My previous impatience had utterly vanished. My curi- 
osity, my interest in Dr. Zitrom's report, in what would be 
happening next, indeed in everything that was or would be, 
evaporated completely. At this moment all of reality con- 
sisted solely of this dead man before me, and of the painful 
regret that I had allowed the commander of our hill to de- 
part without solace, without a word of farewell. 

The aide had gone out for a stretcher, and I was left alone 
with the dead man. "Commander, Commander," I sobbed, 
taking his hand and placing it on mine, as he had done in 
the past few days when he wished to prevent my leaving. 



Io g ( The Silver Bacchand 

"Here I am, Commander, Dummox, reporting for duty, sir, 
Dummox." 

The aide reappeared with the stretcher. Tenderly we laid 
Konrad on it and carried him, at a solemn and deliberate 
pace, down the stairs. When we turned into the hall toward 
room zero my legs obeying the earlier impulse to hurry 
suddenly increased the tempo, and I almost began to run. 
But my mourning spirit proved stronger, and we continued 
on to room zero at the same measured pace. 

Although it was already evening and Dr. Zitrom had cer- 
tainly telephoned in the meanwhile, I paid my last respects 
to the commander. I had rid myself of all worldly considera- 
tions; with all my soul I had surrendered to the power of 
grief. Even at the end, I stood by the grave lost in medita- 
tion for quite a while, before I returned to the office. 



In spite of all the unforeseen contingencies, I was still in 
time. 

The suspense with which all the officers had waited for 
Dr. Zitrom's call had become an unbearable strain by the 
time the telephone rang at last. Dr. Kapra quickly lifted the 
receiver, and everyone in the room held his breath. "Town 
office," he said in disappointment, and handed the receiver 
to the commander. The commander's first impulse was to 
wave it away, but then he recalled that he had ordered the 
senior alderman to report to him. "That must be Mardi," he 
muttered. 

Instead of Mardi, it was the second councilman with the 
stunning news that Mardi had suddenly sickened, and died 
with equal suddenness. But what really stunned us was the 
revival of that superstitious drivel about the walking mayor. 
Mardi's wife and the maid, the councilman declared, had 
sworn by all the saints that the dead mayor, the painted girl, 
the chief of protocol and the night watchman had appeared 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 

at March's bedside to fetch him. When they vanished, Mardi 
lay dead. 

"That is absolutely the limit!" Mannsteufel roared. "To 
think that a goose like that is an alderman's wife. Are we 
still in the Dark Ages here?" 

The senior commander was still raging against the whole 
damned town of Drohitz when the telephone rang once 
more. This time it was Dr. Zitrom at last to communicate 
the shattering result of the post-mortem examination. There 
could be no doubt about it: the cause of both deaths was 
identical. 

Even a man of Mannsteufel's caliber needed a moment to 
regain his composure after this shock. For if this were the 
case, all his measures to isolate the disease in the Mashinka 
had been ineffectual. He simply could not see it. Here he'd 
set up the cordon, enclosing the Mashinka in an iron ring. 
Not a single human soul had been able to break through it. 
After all, it was to eliminate the slightest possibility of 
spreading the disease that he had forbidden transfer of the 
mayor's coffin into the city. A commander could not have 
practiced any greater circumspection, have taken any more 
precautions. Then how was it possible, in spite of all these 
radical measures, that the disease had swept on into the 
town? If it had started among any of the soldiers stationed 
in town, or among the sick men at the Castle Hospital, the 
spoiled turnips and filthy puddle water they had consumed 
at the front might be responsible as in the cases of Konrad 
and Barnabas. But that the disease should break out among 
civilians, and right in the center of town there was simply 
no logical explanation for that. 

"Somewhere there must be a leak in the quarantine," Dr. 
Kapra observed. "Perhaps there are secret paths by which 
someone has stolen into the town and so smuggled the in- 
fection in." 

"But what paths, where could they be?" 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

"At the moment I don't know. Our first task must be to 
ferret this out, and prevent any further spread." 

Dr. Zitrom, who had been instructed to conduct investi- 
gations inside the town, had no easy task of it. Everywhere, 
he ran head on into the same fantastic story, and what little 
objective information he received proved to be negligible. 
The night watchman had come into contact with the chief 
of protocol, and so might have caught the disease from him. 
But what about Mardi? The senior alderman and the night 
watchman had lived in two different worlds; there were 
fewer points of contact between them than between noon 
and midnight. Before their sudden deaths, both had fol- 
lowed their usual routines. There seemed to be only one 
point where their paths had crossed: both had visited Hum- 
perdinger's pastry shop. 

The night watchman had been a sweet-toothed fellow 
who brought Eclairs home from the pastry shop three times 
a week. And after office hours the senior alderman was in 
the habit of dropping in at the pastry shop with a few 
cronies for cake and coffee. 

There seemed nothing unusual in their both visiting the 
pastry shop. And the pastry shop had no more connection 
with the Mashinka than the town hall or the rest of Drohitz. 
Nevertheless, in his perplexity, Dr. Zitrom thought it might 
be worth while taking a look at the pastry shop. And sure 
enough, the investigation paid off. 

No sooner had Dr. Zitrom and his two aides sat down at 
table and ordered their coffee and cake than he noticed a 
lady at the next table trying to drive away a fly that was 
dancing around on her rum baba. At the same moment he 
saw in his mind's eye old Karsinov, his professor of bacteri- 
ology, demonstrating in class Nuttat's fly experiment, and 
he heard the professor's sonorous voice stating: "Flies are of- 
ten the carriers of epidemics." 

"It's the flies!" Dr. Zitrom burst out, to the amazement of 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) III 

the patrons of the shop. Instantly he leaped to his feet and 
roared in an imperious voice: "In the name of the army, no 
one may leave this shop for the present!" One of his aides 
blocked the door, while the other was sent for reinforce- 
ments. In a few minutes the guards appeared and placed the 
pastry shop and its guests under lock and key. 



"So it is Musca domestica" Dr. Kapra murmured after 
laying down the telephone. "I should have thought of that 
myself!" 

"Musca domestica?" The senior commander and the of- 
ficers stared questioningly at him. I wanted to show off my 
school Latin, and translated: "The housefly." 

As soon as the word was spoken, we saw nothing but flies 
wherever we looked. Of course they had been everywhere 
all along. But we were so accustomed to them that we had 
ceased to notice them. 

"It's no wonder the contagion spread into the town in 
spite of all our precautions," Dr. Kapra said. "Those insects 
don't give a damn about orders. No cordon in the world can 
stop them. They simply fly over it. All the pathogenic matter 
they pick up here in sickbeds, on utensils, from toilets and 
garbage, they carry into the town and, with their hairy legs, 
deposit on the pastries in the shop." 

He rocked his head pensively back and forth. "Now that 
it's settled that the infection started from its new focus in 
the pastry shop," he continued, "Dr. Zitrom's prompt order 
to lock up the place and intern the patrons is certainly a 
good prophylactic measure. The question is whether isolat- 
ing the pastry shop will be sufficient." 

All of us looked at him in dismay. "Let me explain the 
situation," he went on. "There is no reason to assume that 
the flies, in their flights about town, patronize Humper- 
dinger's pastry shop exclusively or feast only on pastry. 



222 (The Silver Bacchanal 

There is not a soup pot, not a sugar cube, not a sausage in 
Drohitz that is safe from them. Naturally we have ways and 
means of fighting them. Disinfection and insecticides, car- 
bolsan and Triple L, X-332, and so on. But if only one pair 
of flies escapes, there will be descendants running into the 
millions." 

"We are the army, Doctor," the commander interrupted, 
somewhat vexed at these fatalistic statements. "Do not for- 
get that the army knows only one answer to every question: 
advance, act! I trust you agree that we cannot sit with folded 
hands and watch the disease spread through the entire 
town until all our troops are infected and our last chance for 
a victorious counteroffensive is ruined. You speak of the dif- 
ficult task we face. But there is no task so difficult that it can 
faze a true soldier. If we have to fight the flies of an entire 
town, that to me means nothing but a new type of counter- 
offensive. And if a single surviving pair of flies can produce 
millions of descendants in no time, there is only one answer: 
The entire breed of flies must be exterminated to the last in- 
sect. The fact that our headquarters happens to be under 
quarantine at the moment is insignificant. I commanded 
the victorious Grievitz campaign from a haystack. The site 
does not matter, but the man in command. And I assure 
you, gentlemen, I know what I must do. And I will lead to 
victory this time as well! Heads up, gentlemen; let's have a 
display of soldierly courage!" 

When Mannsteufel pronounced the words "heads up" 
and "soldierly courage," with his own brow beetling and his 
nose thrusting sharply forward, the words not only braced 
and encouraged men; they exerted a spellbinding force 
which annihilated in his subordinates any ability to think 
for themselves, and transformed them into brainless robots. 
I could scarcely believe my eyes and ears when I saw the 
doctor, a skeptical and scientific-minded man, spring to his 
feet like a murderous berserker and cry at the top of his 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 

voice: "To the last insect, to the last fly's egg. Let's go and 
drown every one of the vermin in carbolsan!" 

Manns teuf el dismissed us. "Now I must ask you, gentle- 
men, to leave me until I have worked out the necessary or- 
ders." 

He was a quick worker, and half an hour later we were 
called back to hear his directives. He had devised an offen- 
sive true to all the rules of military strategy and tactics. The 
terrain of operations was divided into two fronts (the fly 
front inside and outside the cordon). In one bold glance he 
had taken in the whole complex without overlooking the 
smallest details. 

Article I contained directives for Front M regarding battle 
order in the area immediately within our concern: recruit- 
ment of all able soldiers and girls for formation of a fly- 
catching brigade which was subdivided into skirmish detach- 
ments with specific designations. For each detachment a 
group leader was appointed; Father Jacopo, for example, 
was assigned the post of flycatching leader in room zero. I 
was the recipient of two designations: leader of the fly- 
catchers of the burial squad, and official in charge of the in- 
terment of fallen flies. 

Article II assigned the battle order for Front D: immediate 
levying and mobilization of the entire population of Dro- 
hitz for the purpose of organizing flycatcher battalions; mili- 
tary requisition of all fly-swatters, obligatory suspension of 
flypaper in all dwellings, dispatch of disinfection patrols to 
all quarters of the town, establishment of border controls at 
all points of ingress to inspect animals, fruit, vegetables and 
general merchandise in order to prevent the unwitting im- 
portation of new flies. 

"That ought to do it, eh, gentlemen?" Mannsteufel said 
at the end, rather puffed with pride. 

Article II was immediately transmitted by telephone to Dr. 
Zitrom, who was entrusted with the command of Front D. 



j j > ( The Silver Bacchanal 

On our front, too, everyone prepared to set out on his vari- 
ous tasks. 

Matters did not go quite as the commander with his 
"that ought to do it" had fancied. What the doctor had said 
before he fell under the spell of the commander that it is 
by no means simple to cope with flies proved to be quite 
right. I might have brought up a few things bearing out the 
doctor's thesis if I had dared to speak up honestly. For ex- 
ample, that there must have been good reason for the Jews 
of Ekron in the Old Testament as we may read in the Sec- 
ond Book of Kings to have named Beelzebub, prince of 
all troublemaking devils, the Lord of Flies. And I might 
have cited the fact that King Menelaus, when he marched 
to battle against the noble Hector, asked the goddess Athene 
to confer upon him the courage of that most impertinent of 
all creatures, the fly. 

Of course, even if I had dared adduce such items, Manns- 
teufel probably would not have understood them. What did 
a military commander care about the Old Testament or the 
ancient Greeks; what did he know aside from the stuff that 
had been hammered into his head in the military academy? 

As it turned out there was no clearly defined battlefield, 
no strong points, no terrain, ramparts, trenches, no orderly 
fronts whose distances could be measured by surveying tech- 
niques. There was no way reconnaissance could determine 
the enemy's positions and his numerical strength. 

As long as we were dealing with men, we had the choice 
of refusing battle, remaining on the defensive and conceal- 
ing our own positions, or of seizing a favorable moment to 
force a decisive battle, ring the enemy's positions, cut off his 
reserves, creep into the enemy camp and take prisoners or 
hostages. Above all, in any such ordinary battle there was a 
commanding position on a height, figuratively or literally, 
from which the military developments could be surveyed. In 
a struggle against human beings anything was possible 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) j ,._ 

even, as Mannsteufel asserted, a victory directed from a hay- 
stack. 

But war against the flies of Drohitz was quite another 
matter, if only because the operational terrain was no ter- 
rain at all in the usual military sense. Positions, battlefield, 
flanks were constantly shifting. One moment it was a wall 
or a hand, then the edge of a glass of milk, then a window- 
pane, a bald head, the tablecloth, the ceiling. Moreover, the 
enemy combatants moved along quite unpredictable lines, 
now right, now left, now up and down; straight ahead for a 
short stretch, then a sharp turn, followed by a bold arc 
through the air. In this campaign there was no possibility of 
reconnoitering the exact enemy positions, of scouting the 
enemy's numbers, of creeping into the enemy camp, not to 
speak of taking prisoners and hostages. And above all, there 
was no commanding position from which the battlefield 
could be surveyed. The enemy was installed in our own 
headquarters, sometimes on the commander's very nose 
while he was directing the offensive. 

Madame Renoir's establishment had not been the most 
peaceful of sanctuaries up to now. But the turmoil that fol- 
lowed upon the inmates' being converted into an army of 
flycatchers went beyond anything I had ever experienced. 
People were in a frenzy to catch one fly after another, to 
pile trophy upon trophy, to lie incessantly in wait and then, 
with one great flowing swing, to slam down upon a fly with 
the swatter. Moreover the place was positively dripping with 
flypaper. And you had to be constantly on your guard 
against running into one of the dangling ribbons and being 
caught fast like the enemy. 

Now and then a quarrel broke out when someone, with 
the best of intentions, attempted to waft a fly away from a 
fellow soldier's face and in so doing hit his comrade in the 
eye. And more than once these warriors in the anti-fly army 
flew into such a passion that they confused each other with 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

their winged opponents and came close to finishing each 
other off. Even in Madame Renoir's office, our temporary 
military headquarters, such scenes were not unknown ex- 
cept that there, among the officers, they took place with a 
"begging your permission, sir" or an outraged "I should 
think." 

All friendly sociability, all normal human intercourse, 
came to an end. People scarcely took time for the normal 
duties of the day. Everything was turned topsy-turvy; all or- 
der broke down into fearful anarchy. Even the sick, weak 
and whimpering in their beds, were not spared this heat of 
battle; they too, according to their strength, were mobilized. 
Every one of them who was capable of holding a fly-swatter 
in his feverish hand was impressed for killing flies. 

The Silver Hall, where the mirrors multiplied a thousand- 
fold the dangling flypapers, the swatters and the frenzied 
hunt, presented the wildest battle scene of all. When I 
stepped into it for a moment, I felt as if I were witnessing 
the final struggle between the human race and the fly species. 

For me, this battle of the flies was the first in this great 
war in which I took part as an active combatant. And at the 
beginning it really gave me pleasure to unleash my own ag- 
gressive impulses, to run about with drawn fly-swatter, lash- 
ing wildly about me, demolishing foes even if they were 
only flies. At times, also, it so happened that I could get in 
a blow at someone with whom I had a score to settle a 
smart swat on the behind, the hand or right in the face. 

Along with this, of course, I had my regular duties and 
was required to clear the battlefield of corpses, just as I had 
done in human war. This was neither pleasant nor easy work. 
As soon as I had gathered the battered corpses and the fly- 
papers covered with casualties into a pail and buried them 
on the slope leading down to the river, I would return to the 
Silver Hall only to find every surface littered with dead flies 
once more. And this same process went on and on, endlessly. 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) J/7 

No matter how many corpses I took off to the burial pits, 
there were always fresh pailfuls. Gradually I awoke to the 
fearful numbers, the inexhaustible reserves our enemy pos- 
sessed. 

And yet Madame Renoir's establishment was merely one 
small sector of this two-front war. What must be going on in 
the other sectors of Front M, and especially in the main 
battlefields of Front D, in the butchers 7 and greengrocers' 
shops, in the municipal offices, at family tables and in the 
Castle Hospital! What mountains of fly cadavers my col- 
leagues on Front D must be picking up; how many pails of 
flies they must be dumping in the fly cemetery! 

It was a mystery to me that Mannsteufel, who after all had 
eyes and could see what was going on, could still believe his 
strategy would succeed. There was no accounting for this 
adamant conviction in terms of ordinary human reason. Evi- 
dently a commander of Mannsteufel's breed must have a 
textbook on strategy rather than a brain inside his head, to 
have such faith in his army's invincibility and in his own 
genius as a general. How else could he unwaveringly con- 
tinue this hopeless stuggle? 

There was nothing for me to do but to accept the whole 
idiocy of it, as I had always done in this war, and to com- 
fort myself with the thought that this, like everything else, 
would pass sooner or later if in no other way, then by my 
own passing. And thinking this, I was helped by Father 
Jacopo's words of promise, that all who suffer here on earth 
will reap salvation in the afterlife. 

Unpleasant bulletins from the town came thick as flies; as 
soon as we thought we had finished with one problem, an- 
other was on its way. 

Dr. Zitrom's order to isolate the suspect disease carriers in 
the pastry shop for purposes of observation proved untenable, 
even as a temporary measure. It was no small matter to deal 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

with the outraged customers themselves, who had innocently 
assembled for a cup of coffee and a friendly chat, and were 
now forcibly held in protective custody. The situation 
worsened, moreover, when members of their families, 
troubled by their long absence, arrived at Humperdinger's 
and learned what had happened. A storm of indignation 
burst. Dr. Zitrom patiently explained that the patrons were 
detained as a preventive measure, necessary in the interests 
of the town, the army and the fatherland. His word fell on 
deaf ears. Nothing could calm the angry crowd; more and 
more menacingly, they demanded the release of the prison- 
ers in the pastry shop. The guard had the greatest difficulty 
controlling the citizenry, whose mood grew uglier by the 
minute. 

From Zitrom's telephoned account of these develop- 
ments, it was obvious that something had to be done at once. 
And where decisions were wanted, Mannsteufel was the 
right man. In no time he came up with the solution. The 
detainees in the pastry shop must be brought into the 
Mashinka without more ado, he declared. There were many 
reasons in favor of such a step. Once those people crossed to 
our side of the cordon, there would be no further difficulty in 
keeping them secure. Moreover, here at the locus of conta- 
gion the doctor was familiar with the symptoms and had 
some experience in treating the disease. And if there were to 
be additional cases of disease in town, the Mashinka seemed 
the logical place to concentrate them for reasons of space 
also. The Mashinka, after all, had plenty of beds. If the 
need arose, other houses could be requisitioned in the Ma- 
shinka, so that the commander could personally check de- 
velopments and issue the proper orders. 

The more Mannsteufel considered, the more it appeared 
to him that centralization in the Mashinka was the only 
logical course from the military point of view, and therefore, 
the only course. 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) J/O 

Informed by telephone of this decision, Dr. Zitrom pro- 
tested that so radical a step would only further raise the in- 
dignation of the townspeople, and that the transfer was 
bound to meet with stubborn resistance. Mannsteufel, of 
course, waved aside all such objections. What was this about 
resistance? What kind of resistance could a few civilians 
put up? At worst they would wail and scream. Well, let 
them wail and scream. Their noise would not deter the army. 
Besides, what was so terrible about shipping the pack of 
lousy civilians into the Mashinka? There were women and 
young ladies among them? At the moment the whole lot of 
them were nothing but potential carriers of disease who had 
to be watched. 

Subduing flies might be a tougher task than he had bar- 
gained for. But as for dealing with human beings Mann- 
steufel felt that he could do that with a flip of his fingers. 

As soon as the order was issued to Dr. Zitrom, prepara- 
tions were begun in the Silver Hall. In order to make 
enough room, two adjacent houses were requisitioned, and 
the girls from these distributed among other houses. The 
Silver Hall itself would remain the reception and observa- 
tion center, while the pantry was designated an examining 
room. 

As Dr. Zitrom had anticipated, the transfer of the detain- 
ees involved a good deal of unpleasantness, From his de- 
scription of the tumultous scenes that had taken place out- 
side the pastry shop, we were prepared for real trouble when 
the shipment of suspects arrived at the Mashinka. 

"What a damned nuisance," the commander muttered. 
"I've always said so: whether they're whores, ladies or gen- 
tlemen, it's always the same civilian rabble." 

He decided to conduct the group from the cordon to the 
Silver Hall in person, and picked a detachment of reliable 
officers and soldiers for the job. Lieutenant Waldo was in- 



22O (The Silver Bacchanal 

eluded in this group, and since he knew that I must stay be- 
hind because of the patients on the critical list, he asked me 
to assume command of the Silver Hall until his return. 
Judging by my recent experiences, this was not the most 
tempting of assignments. Still, I had no choice but to con- 
sent. 

The news that honorable citizens of Drohitz were going to 
be quartered in the Silver Hall stirred up considerable excite- 
ment among the girls, who felt a mischievous satisfaction 
that respectable townspeople were about to share their lot. 

It was no more than fifteen minutes' walk from the cordon 
to the Silver Hall. The group ought to be arriving at any mo- 
ment. When they did not show up, I sent one of the guards 
to find out what was happening. He returned with the news 
that the group had just passed the cordon, and that our 
soldiers were having a time of it compelling the civilians to 
take so much as a single step. 

"The whores were a different proposition/' he com- 
mented. "They raised a rumpus, but once they saw that the 
jig was up, they went back of their own accord. These ladies 
and gentlemen are like a pack of mules. They've made up 
their minds that they're not going to move ahead. They 
stand like logs, and every one has to be pushed and shoved. 
If it goes on at that pace, it will be a while before they get 
here." 

A scornful babble rose up among the girls. 

"Snooty, ain't they!" 

"Who do they think they are?" 

"It'll be a good lesson to them." 

"It's what I call justice." 

"At least they'll see how we live here." 

"And they can learn a thing or two about handling men." 

"They've come, they're already in the front yard," the 
guard reported at last. But even the short stretch from yard 
to door took quite a while. Every step of the way was a pain- 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 121 

ful struggle. At last, from the hall, the commander's voice 
rang out: "Forward, march! Get on there now!" There fol- 
lowed sounds of pushing and panting. 

Abruptly the chattering in the Silver Hall ceased. "Shh, 
shh!" the girls admonished one another. The hall was in 
dead silence now as everyone stared at the door, necks 
thrust forward, eyes wide. 

Then the door opened. Two matrons, rigid as statues, and 
a middle-aged gentleman in frock coat were propelled 
roughly into the room by several soldiers. Then followed a 
man with a goatee, a young woman, a plump girl and a 
bald man with glasses. All of them had to be pushed or 
dragged across the threshold; but as soon as they were inside 
the Silver Hall the mirrors accomplished what all the shout- 
ing and shoving had been unable to do. The brilliant illumi- 
nation, the numbers of girls and soldiers, the sight of their 
own mirror images multiplied a hundredfold, broke down all 
reserve, and the civilians flitted back and forth like wound- 
up mechanical dolls. Their heads craned right and left, their 
limbs and faces twitched and quivered; they stared in per- 
plexity at one another, gasped for breath, floundered like 
fish out of water. 

This sudden change would have roused the dead to laugh- 
ter. I had all I could do to maintain order in the room, but 
even so I found it hard to keep my face straight. 

"Adam!" a treble voice suddenly caroled, and whom 
should I sec but Eve detaching herself from a group of new 
arrivals and running from one mirror image to the next, not 
knowing where I was actually standing. 

I was supposed to be on duty here, but when I saw Eve 
looking for me in all the mirrors, I was seized by a kind of 
frenzy. I forgot my orders, forgot everything. "Here, Eve, 
here I am," I shouted, running toward her through the 
crowd. 

"Adam, my Adam," she exclaimed joyously, when I 



J22 (The Silver Bacchanal 

reached her. But all at once her pleasure at this unexpected 
encounter was clouded by reproach: "Say, why did you 
stand me up? And . . . and . . ." Growing indignation 
overwhelmed her rejoicing. "What are you doing here?" she 
went on, looking around the room. And then, angrily: "To 
think of meeting you again in such a place! I never expected 
anything like that from you. You make me wait in vain for 
hours at the pastry shop while you're . . . you're . . . hang- 
ing out in this . . . this house of ill fame! To think I longed 
for you and thought of you as a hero. You've destroyed my 
faith in heroes forever, my faith in men. I wish I'd never 
met you, I wish you'd fallen on the field of honor!" 

I could explain everything, I was sure. "I ... I ..." I 
began in embarrassment. 

She would not hear. "Save your breath. I'm through with 
you. It's all over. I'm through with you for good." She 
turned her back on me. 

"Eve, Eve," I cried, running after her, "listen to me, 
please." 

"Don't you even recognize me?" One of the ladies of the 
new contingent suddenly blocked my way. I look ques- 
tiongly at her. The faces of so many females had been im- 
pressed so forcibly upon my mind in the past few days that I 
really could not remember hers. "A fine cavalier you are," 
she said, half reproachfully, half teasingly. "Why did you 
run out without a word to me?" Then I realized that she 
was the blue-eyed girl I had followed into the jeweler's shop. 

"I ... I ..." I tried to explain again. 

But then Eve caught sight of us and was on the spot im- 
mediately. "What have you to say to my Adam?" she de- 
manded. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, trying to sneak 
my hero away?" 

"I'm trying to sneak him away from you? He ran after me. 
You'd better do your homework, you little hussy, and keep 
away from soldiers. I'll tell your mother on you." 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 123 

"And I'll write to your husband so he'll know what his 
Angela is doing behind his back while he fights for his 
country/' 

"Shut up, or . . ." 

"Shut up, or . . ." 

They seemed on the point of scratching each other's eyes 
out. 

"Why, you're not going to start scrapping over him, are 
you?" Violetta interposed. She and several other girls, at- 
tracted by the raised voices, had clustered round. "That's 
just the kind of guy he is. He did the same thing to me, 
stood me up. Sheer waste of time. I could have had another 
customer in the meanwhile." 

"Another customer?" They did not immediately grasp 
this, but they understood at once that here was another 
woman I had stood up, that I was that kind of fellow. 

"You can have him, I'll give him to you," Eve said. 

"No, thanks, I don't need him; you said he belongs to 
you," Angela replied. 

I stood rooted to the spot in utter helplessness. 

"Well, well, baby, what have you done this time?" Lud- 
milla slipped her great bulk into the group. "I assure you" 
she turned to the others "you haven't missed anything. I 
ought to know; I've had this pig in bed." 

They were worlds apart, but a shared disappointment 
placed them in league against me. Was this real, or was I 
dreaming? All my unconsummated soldier's love life in rear 
echelon, my love at-first-sight of the parade ground, my first 
flirtation at the Corso, my first excitement in the Silver Hall, 
my encounter with Ludmilla all these experiences after 
months of deprivation returned now, distorted into a 
ghastly caricature, and stood before me, accusing and con- 
temptuous. 

"Ugh," I heard Eve say, and Angela, Violetta and Lud- 
milla made the same derisive sounds. Dimly, I observed 



224. e ver Bacchanal 

the last of the prisoners from the pastry shop being hustled 
across the threshold. Then the Mirror Room with its hun- 
dreds of reflected crystal chandeliers seemed to vanish into 
darkness. 

"Well, I'll be damned; Ember, what's the matter with 
you?" I heard the commander rumbling out of the darkness. 
His voice seemed to rise from a vast abyss, and at the same 
time he and the abyss sounded as if they were right beside 
me. "What's the matter with you? Don't you hear me?" 
the abyss roared into my ear. 

"The porcelain Chinese, the porcelain Chinese ..." A 
half-choked cry burst out of my throat. 

"Nothing serious, just an attack of giddiness," I heard Dr. 
Kapra's voice. 

I was lying on the floor in room zero, with the doctor and 
Father Jacopo standing over me. 

"You gave us a good scare," the doctor said. "We were be- 
ginning to think that you too . . . But it doesn't seem to 
be anything much; all you need is a good rest." 

After a while I was back at my post. The steady flow of 
bad news from town, and the resultant rearrangements in 
the Silver Hall, left me little time to worry about my private 
troubles. I threw myself into my work and tried to be every- 
where at once, in order to drive that painful confrontation 
from my thoughts. 

As Dr. Zitrom had predicted, transfer of the pastry-shop 
patrons to the Mashinka had aroused widespread indigna- 
tion in Drohitz. Forcible removal of ladies and girls of the 
best families of Drohitz to the bordello quarter! Who had 
ever heard of anything like it! It was inexcusable. If isolation 
of the "suspects" was actually necessary, they should be sent 
to the municipal hospital. Wasn't it disgraceful enough that 
the army officers had taken advantage of the mayor's hos- 
pitality by luring him into the Mashinka, and then buried 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 

him there like a dog? Now they were forcing the respectable 
citizens of Drohitz to follow their mayor into the halls of 
vice! 

And who was responsible for all these indignities? The 
army, of course. The selfsame army that Drohitz had re- 
ceived with open arms, for which Drohitz had prepared a 
hero's welcome. And this was the army's thanks for Drohitz' 
cordiality! Not even the enemy could have humiliated, 
could have insulted the town worse than its own army did. 

The fly squadrons invading private homes were felt to be 
deliberate vexations, and the increasing shipments of sus- 
pects to the Mashinka were viewed as outright spite. All this 
naturally fed the resentment of the townsfolk. "If this goes 
on," people were saying, "all Drohitz will end up in the 
bordellos. Of course the army brutes doesn't give a damn 
what it means to peaceful citizens to be torn away from their 
homes. Individuals don't count to the army." 

The bitterness of the citizenry soon assumed the form of 
passive resistance. The proclamations of the army, posted on 
street corners and billboards, were flatly ignored. The fly 
squadrons found themselves, more and more frequently, 
confronted by locked doors which they had to break open 
by force. Day after day it became more difficult to properly 
carry out the sanitation measures ordered by the military 
command. 

Then came that juvenile prank on the part of several 
townspeople which just about blew the lid. One morning all 
the army's announcements were pasted over with posters 
bearing the following outrageous text: 

PROCLAMATION OF GHQ, UNITED FLY 
COMMAND 

Drohitzers, awake! Hear the truth! Do not permit the 
soldiery to mislead you, nor cast all blame upon our wings. 
For generations we have lived with you, sharing your rooms, 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

your kitchens, your stores and stands. And although we have 
had our domestic quarrels, we have on the whole coexisted 
very well with you. We buzzed about here while Drohitz 
developed from a small village to a flourishing commercial 
town. Ever since the first red lanterns winked on in the 
Mashinka, we have flown back and forth, but never before 
have we been accused of bringing evil from the Mashinka 
into the town. 

If anyone is responsible for the importation of this dis- 
ease, it is not us, but the army. The army has attempted to 
shift its own responsibility to us. We carry back and forth 
only what we are given to carry. 

People of Drohitz, let us in this urgent hour bury our do- 
mestic quarrels. Let us fraternize and proceed with united 
forces against the common enemy, the accursed, infected 
army. 

We extend our wings to you in fraternal greeting. 

(Signed) UNITED FLY COMMAND OF DROHITZ 

Army Intelligence located the printer at once, but in spite 
of interrogation that verged on the third degree, it proved 
impossible to discover who was responsible for this shameful 
piece of mockery. And although town headquarters saw to it 
that the posters were covered over at once, the contents 
could not be wiped out. Every Drohitzer knew the words of 
the proclamation by heart as well as he did the national 
anthem. 

The tension between the town and the army reached such 
a critical point that the second councilman, who was at the 
time conducting the town's affairs, dropped in at the casino 
one evening in order to discuss the ticklish business with 
some of the town fathers over a bottle of wine. 

One of the councilors argued that in spite of all provoca- 
tions they must not lose their heads, and that they ought to 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 12*7 

urge the population to obey the sanitary regulations. After 
all, it must not be forgotten, he pointed out, that Drohitz 
had been spared occupation by the enemy during all the 
years of the war, and that this mercy was due solely to the 
brave stand the army had made. He was in the midst of 
these arguments when the second councilman was called to 
the telephone. He returned shortly, his face flaming with 
indignation. 

"The devil with Mannsteufel," he shouted. "Too much is 
too much." He turned to the councilor. "And what's this 
about our owing gratitude to the army? It's time we looked 
the facts in the face. Brave stand? Defenders of the country? 
Saviors of Drohitz? Rubbish, absolutely rubbish! They're a 
beaten horde who've abandoned the greater part of the 
country to the enemy; they ran away like cowards and came 
to Drohitz for safety. Do you remember how they arrived 
here, scattered stragglers, filthy, ragged, half famished? They 
came to Drohitz to prepare a victorious new offensive so 
they say. But where did their preparations begin? In the 
bordellos! Heroes rot! They're a pack of whorehounds, 
that's all." 

This outburst on the part of the second councilman took 
place in a circle of intimate friends, and all those present 
swore to keep mum about it. But when outrage has reached 
such proportions, no secret is sacred. By the following morn- 
ing every word of it was being repeated joyously by the 
citizens of Drohitz. 

All of us in Madame Renoir's establishment had seen 
Commander Mannsteufel blow his top on a number of oc- 
casions. But his explosion this time, when Intelligence tele- 
phoned a report on the events in the casino, exceeded any- 
thing we had imagined possible. It was as if all the rage that 
God has distributed among such elemental forces as vol- 
canoes, rivers in spate and hurricanes had assembled for a 
brief rendezvous inside Mannsteufel. He swore, he thun- 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

dered, he raged, he raved. Any moment, it seemed this ex- 
cess of fury would burst the limited human vessel that con- 
tained it. 

Who knows how it would have ended if at that moment a 
fly had not settled on Mannsteufel's nose. He tried to brush 
it away. It obstinately flitted back until at last an adjutant 
sprang to his feet and crushed it on Mannsteufel's nose. For 
a moment this comical interlude brought the trace of a smile 
even to Mannsteufel's face, and with that his rage returned 
to its human limits. 

"Arrest him, court-martial him, shoot him!" he bellowed. 
But that was easier to order inside the Silver Hall than to 
carry out in Drohitz, for the town was ranged against the 
Mashinka like an enemy camp. 

Before the commander's punitive campaign against the 
rebellious townsfolk could come to a head, it was over. 
Oddly enough, it terminated without unconditional sur- 
render on the part of the townspeople, and without the 
commander's yielding an inch. An unforeseen event caused 
this change in the situation. A wholly new front suddenly 
opened up, a front which on the one hand demanded the 
commander's entire attention and resolution, and on the 
other hand compelled the town rebels to shelve their grudge 
for a while. 

The immediate cause of this new situation was the amaz- 
ing case of Trombolin. Ever since Sodom and Gomorrah 
there have been, in every doomed city, a few persons who 
co-operate with the authorities. One such person was the 
venerable grocer Trombolin, who was the moving spirit of 
the co-operative movement for which the town councilor 
had pleaded during that memorable conference at the ca- 
sino. As scion of the oldest commercial dynasty in Drohitz, 
Trombolin threw his entire prestige into the cause of con- 
vincing the citizens that in spite of their justified rancor 



vii The Mayor's Creatures) 

against the army, self-preservation demanded that they sup- 
port the sanitary measures of the military authorities and 
help combat the plague of flies. 

Dr. Zitrom, who had appointed Trombolin chairman of 
the voluntary civilian defense organization, found him a 
pillar of strength in the battle against the flies. Not only 
Trombolin himself, but his whole family also took an active 
part in this struggle and the Trombolins formed a sizable 
clan. Mrs. Trombolin was president of the Anti-Fly League 
of Patriotic Housewives, and the Trombolin children or- 
ganized volunteer flyfighter squads in the schools. In Trom- 
bolin's warehouse and home not a single fly was to be found. 
And then this champion of the anti-fly campaign caught the 
disease, and died. 

To make matters worse, a magistrate, a watchmaker and 
a few other customers of Trombolin's fell ill. Of course the 
townsfolk immediately revived their stories about the may- 
or's ghost; but for an enlightened man like Dr. Zitrom there 
was never any doubt that every infectious disease had its 
natural cause. 

After Trombolin's body had been removed from the 
house, and the room in which he had breathed his last 
thoroughly disinfected, Dr. Zitrom made a routine inspec- 
tion of the warehouse. Just as he was turning to go, some- 
thing scurried across his foot. A rat. 

Could it be ... How frightful! he thought in alarm 
and immediately found confirmation of his fears. For as he 
looked around the warehouse and pushed boxes and crates 
aside, he discovered, behind a gnawed sack of rice, a dead 
rat swollen to the size of a suckling pig. He groaned at the 
thought that he had been so blinded by his obsession with 
flies. Why had he not considered this possible mode of dis- 
ease transmission from the start? 

There could be no doubt that, along with the flies, these 
stub-nosed, short-tailed, brown rodents were also responsible 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

For the spread of the infection. Of course they too disre- 
garded cordons; the flies flew over the cordon, the rats 
slipped through it. And naturally these greediest of animals 
had promptly found the way to Trombolin's foodstuffs, and 
with the disease in their own bodies and the fleas in their 
pelts, carried the germs of the disease everywhere. Who 
could say how many other warehouses, sheds, cellars, attics 
and stables they scurried through? 

Flies, rats and fleas in an alliance against us! What a 
situation! 

The commander, however, remained composed. After Dr. 
Kapra had given him a briefing on available rat poisons, he 
withdrew, and shortly afterward returned with plans for an- 
other offensive. Everything was once again worked out down 
to the smallest detail appointment of a rat intelligence 
staff, organization of rat-catching squads who would wear 
fleaproof smocks, issue of rat traps and sulfur-dioxide pack- 
ets, and all the rest of it. The monomaniac boldness and 
verve with which he now assumed the extermination of 
two more prolific species was somewhat frightening. 

However, the rat war had barely begun when another 
front had to be opened. This resulted from the diligence 
with which Dr. Zitrom, his wits sharpened by the case of the 
rats, now sought for other, hitherto overlooked, avenues for 
the dissemination of the disease. In the poor quarter of the 
town a washerwoman and her clients fell ill. Dr. Zitrom ex- 
amined the water of the Strij River and discovered that the 
sewage from the Mashinka flowed into the Strij. Thus, in 
addition to all the other carriers, the river Strij was pouring 
infection into the town. Nature herself was playing tricks on 
the senior commander. He promptly ordered the evacuation 
of all houses along the Strij; no one was allowed to go down 
to the bank of the river; and the laundry washed in Strij 
water was confiscated. 

The struggle against a hostile army possessing such in- 



vii The Mayor's Creatures ) J 2 J 

exhaustible reserves as the vermin and as a river which in- 
cessantly poured tons of infected water into the town, and 
at the same time the effort to combat an invisible govern- 
ment of the dead under the leadership of a dead mayor 
in the end such a struggle slowly but surely wore down even 
so stalwart a character as our Mannsteufel. And still the bit- 
ter cup had not yet been drained to the dregs. But we had 
not long to wait. 

In the course of an investigation about a washerwomen's 
death, it turned out that the last person to have been in con- 
tact with the deceased was an old maid, Vera Gambos, a 
midwife of the poor. 

When Zitrom's men appeared at Vera's address, intend- 
ing to take her to the Mashinka for observation, she meekly 
asked permission to change her dress before going with the 
soldiers. After waiting for some while the soldiers lost pa- 
tience, broke into her bedroom, and found it empty. They 
searched the house from cellar to attic in vain. Vera had 
escaped them. They asked the neighbors; but although Vera 
must have left the house only a short time before, no one 
would admit having seen her. The old maid seemed to have 
vanished. 

The military police finally succeeded in locating the mid- 
wife at the other end of town, in the home of a textile mer- 
chant. But it was already too late. Not only was Vera her- 
self dead; there was already another casualty in the house. 

The textile merchant was the sole survivor and witness. 
His testimony was as follows: His sister-in-law Vera had 
sought refuge in his warehouse in order to escape the shame 
of being confined in the Mashinka. There, due to the stale 
air and her agitation, she had felt nauseated. She had ven- 
tured into the yard for a breath of fresh air. When some time 
passed and she did not return, his wife went out to look for 
her. 

At this point the factual part of the story ended, to be fol- 



j 3 2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

lowed by the usual absurdities about the mayor's ghost. 

The textile merchant heard a sharp cry, ran out and 
found his wife lying on the ground in a dead faint. After he 
had carried her into the house, she slowly came to. Trem- 
bling in every limb, she said that when she asked her sister 
to return to the house, Vera had replied, "I can't. Don't you 
see His Honor the Mayor and all the others? I must go 
with them." 

"You're seeing ghosts," his wife had replied, and gone up 
to Vera, who lay in a twisted position on the ground. But as 
she was about to lift Vera to her feet, someone behind her 
seized her arm and pulled her aside. She turned around. 
There stood the mayor, surrounded by his band. 

"Come along," she heard him summon Vera. "We can- 
not wait any longer." 

She did not know what happened after that, because she 
fainted. 

"Bring Vera in, hurry, hurry," she implored her husband. 
But when he went into the yard, Vera was dead. 

The next day his wife fell ill. And he himself saw the 
mayor, coming with his band to fetch her. 

What drove Dr. Zitrom almost to despair was that it be- 
came more and more difficult to check the swelling tide of 
superstition. Whenever anyone caught the disease and died, 
the mayor and his retinue were sure to have appeared. And 
every man who joined his band was as loyal to the dead 
mayor as he had been to the living mayor. 

Dead storekeepers directed the mayor to the houses of 
their best customers. Dead husbands opened the doors to 
their wives' bedrooms for him. And each time the mayor 
picked his candidates by his own standards. For reasons be- 
yond the knowledge of the living he would choose one and 
reject another. 

Regardless of all the logical arguments put forward by the 



vii The Mayor's Creatures ) j * , 

military government there was simply no way of fighting the 
insane superstition of the townspeople. It would obviously 
end by defeating all efforts of the officials and of Dr. Zi- 
trom's heroic sanitary measures. Effective as flypaper, fumi- 
gation, flea powder, rat poison and traps might be in dis- 
posing of vermin, carefully as the Strij water might be boiled 
and distilled to destroy germs no fumigant could smoke 
out the dead mayor, no trap could catch him, no poison 
eliminate him, no distillation evaporate him. 

On top of everything else, there now came alarming re- 
ports from the Castle Hospital. One of the voluntary nurses 
had come down with the disease. Then two of the invalid 
soldiers in her care caught it. It was inconceivable how this 
could happen in that citadel of disinfection, where all hy- 
gienic measures had been strictly observed. 

Since I was the only man at the Mashinka headquarters 
who had been to the Castle Hospital, Dr. Kapra assigned 
me to liaison duties. I was to take all calls from the hospital, 
and so I was right at the source when Head Nurse Jadwiga 
telephoned. 

"Adam Ember speaking. I'm sure you remember me, 

Nurse Jadwiga. I am the medical aide who " I started off 

in friendly, chatty fashion. 

"Yes," she interrupted me, "but we have no time now. 
Listen to me. Something frightful has happened here during 
the night." 

"Something frightful?" I repeated in alarm. Hearing the 
words, the commander, the doctor and the other officers in 
the room besieged me with questions. Covering the mouth- 
piece with my hand, I said to the commander, "Beg pardon, 
sir, just one second. I haven't yet heard what it is." I re- 
moved my hand. "Yes, please, Nurse Jadwiga, what has hap- 
pened?" 

Her news could not have been worse. Some days ago the 



2 24 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

baroness had fallen ill. Dr. Zitrom stayed with her most of 
the nights, looking after her, while Head Nurse Jadwiga at- 
tended to other patients. Around four o'clock this morning 
Dr. Zitrom had suddenly come rushing into the main ward, 
screaming, "Nurse, Nurse, come quickly. I'm going out of 
my mind. The mayor and his band have come into the 
baroness' room. I know it cannot be true, and yet I've seen 
it with my own eyes." Whereupon he broke into hysterical 
weeping. 

His noise aroused the sleeping patients in the ward. 
"They're here, bar the door!" they shouted wildly. Some 
sprang from their beds; others hid under their blankets. 
Nurse Jadwiga had her hands full stemming the panic. 

With Nurse Melanie's assistance, she got Dr. Zitrom into 
bed; he had collapsed, unconscious, in the midst of his hys- 
teria. Then she hurried to the baroness' private wing. She 
found the mistress of the castle lifeless in her bed. 

"What's up now, in the name of God!" the senior com- 
mander snapped as soon as I laid down the receiver. For a 
moment I stared wildly into space. All the details of that 
memorable evening of our arrival revived in my mind. I saw 
the baroness, bronze-skinned and thoroughbred, standing in 
the doorway to the boudoir; I saw Dr. Zitrom's face, red with 
lechery and embarrassment, as he sent me out to the ban- 
quet so that he could spend the night with the baroness. 

"Well, come on! Don't sit staring like an idiot!" the com- 
mander roared, shaking my shoulders roughly. 

When at last I managed to bring out the story, the com- 
mander turned pale. All the others stood stunned. At last 
Dr. Kapra broke the silence: "A military physician, an en- 
lightened man. No, it's beyond understanding. I really did 
not expect that of Zitrom. We'll have to write Zitrom off. 
The question is now who can take his place." 

"His first assistant?" 

"We don't know a thing about the man." 



vii The Mayor's Creatures ) J 3 5 

"I know him; a blockhead who served in my squad/' I 
remarked. 

"There we have it." 

While they were still mulling over the matter, I blurted 
out, "If Dr. Zitrom's story gets around among our soldiers in 
Drohitz, they'll be sure to meet the roaming mayor and his 
band." 

"Shut up, you idiot!" the commander roared. "Out of this 
room. And you too, gentlemen, if you please," he said to the 
officers. "I must collect myself." 

I slunk off to room zero. But I felt so conscience-stricken 
that I decided to return to the office to apologize to the 
commander. Cautiously, I opened the door a crack and 
caught sight of the commander whom I had never seen in 
any but a military posture kneeling on the floor. Hands 
clasped in prayer, he was murmuring despairingly: "Lord 
have mercy upon us!" 

Stunned by this unexpected sight, I closed the door be- 
fore he should notice me. 

Toward evening of that same day Dr. Zitrom passed on. 
Dr. Kapra listed him as one more victim of the disease. But 
privately I thought that Dr. Zitrom had abjured his faith 
in natural causes for good and all, and had followed his 
baroness to join the mayor's retinue of the dead. 



VIII 



Family Life 
in the Bordello 



T 

JLhe 



-he epidemic which spread so rapidly in Dro- 
hitz also had its effects on the Mashinka. The senior com- 
mander and his staff were now completely taken up with 
the organization of additional annexes, and I seldom saw 
the commander himself in the Silver Hall. Dr. Kapra came 
there only for his morning round, and for a brief checkup 
during the afternoon. In his absence Kalabas officiated part 
time in the pantry, distributing drugs and taking care of 
other medical functions. A corporal sat in the office to re- 
ceive telephoned reports, and supervision of the Silver Hall 
was left entirely to Lieutenant Waldo and a handful of 
guards. 

The mood in the Mirror Room was uglier than ever. The 
new arrivals were much exercised at the disgrace of being 
locked up in the same room with prostitutes. The girls, on 
the other hand, maddened by the snobbery of the respect- 
able citizens, retaliated by making fun of them, which of 
course only fanned the rage of the citizenry. The tiniest in- 
cident served as a pretext for a scene. One violent outburst 
followed the next, until one day the tension rose to a point 
where it simply could no longer be borne. As in nature the 



viii Family Life in the Bordello) j ->* 

wildest hurricane eventually reaches a saturation point, so 
the tempests in the Silver Hall suddenly subsided overnight, 
perhaps from sheer exhaustion. 

Anyone who had seen the Mirror Room the day before 
would scarcely have believed this was the same place. The 
moral indignation of the townsfolk had evaporated like the 
perfume from a poorly corked bottle. One after the other 
they dropped their reserve and mingled, as Eve and Angela 
had already done, with the "girls" who belonged there. 

At first there was only a hesitant sniffing and snuffing at 
each other, then the beginnings of conversation, then closer 
acquaintance, and finally the formation of friendships. 
Whereupon the girls stopped their gibing and the guards 
could actually make themselves heard below a bellow. They 
began to act quite civilly until in the end nothing but the 
uniforms remained of their rough military character. 

Even the hostility of my four Furies, Eve, Angela, Vio- 
letta and Ludmilla, seemed to have eased somewhat, al- 
though they continued to regard me as something less than 
a man. The Silver Hall turned into a kind of sanctuary, and 
I would hurry to finish my daily rounds in order to get back 
there. When I did, I was sure to find the respectable citi- 
zenry deep in intimate conversation with the whores of the 
Mashinka. 

The citizens who had been so rudely torn from their ac- 
customed ways and were now incarcerated here, cut off from 
their homes, families and occupations, felt a strong urge to 
vent their bitterness. A stocky, almost neckless man, whose 
head seemed set right on his shoulders and whose body re- 
sembled an undifferentiated block, began, just as I came in 
one afternoon, recounting how it had all happened. His 
clumsy speech was as shapeless as his body. He faltered after 
every few sentences, began anew and repeated everything 
he had already said. 

"I was just, just about to put our famous Humperdinger 



2 3 8 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

rum baba into the oven. Into the oven it was going when 
they came rushing in and grabbed the cake from my hands. 
For forty years I've baked the cake that bears my name, 
and now it's over, all over." He was seized by a fit of asthma 
and snorted like an overheated engine toiling up a moun- 
tain. 

"Pray let me tell the story, Mr. Humperdinger," inter- 
vened a mercurial gentleman. He was, as I learned later, the 
banker Rappaport, who also acted as director of the Drohitz 
amateur theater. In a well-modulated voice, with vivid ges- 
tures, he began describing all that had happened that mem- 
orable afternoon in the pastry shop. 

"I am sure you will recall, my dear Madam President and 
my dear Mrs. Moffet," he said, turning to two of the ladies 
one of them a robust person in a close-fitting black taffeta 
dress that threatened to burst any moment, the other a bit 
faded, but fairly attractive, dressed in a flowered print with 
white niching at the neck, her profuse blond hair curled 
over her forehead "that you were sitting at the round 
table in the pastry shop. Mrs. Moffet, would you be so kind 
as to move your seat over to Madam President's?" he 
prompted. "You ladies, if I remember rightly, were discussing 
an important committee affair when I joined you." Like a 
stage director he took his chair and moved over to them, in 
order to bring the scene to life. "To our right sat Malva." 
He now turned to a pale, plump girl with dreamy, almond- 
shaped eyes, and asked her to move her chair to the proper 
position. "That was exactly how it was/ 7 he murmured ap- 
provingly, and continued: "When we noticed each other, 
we nodded in greeting. Malva was on the point of dunking 
her croissant into the coffee when suddenly this dreadful 
army doctor who was sitting at the next table with two of 

his henchmen jumped to his feet " Whereupon Mr. 

Rappaport, to make it as vivid as possible, jumped up, sta- 
tioned himself at the table beside Miss Malva, and began to 



viii Family Life in the Bordello) 

shout like a madman, "It's the flies! The flies!" 

So cunningly did he imitate Dr. Zitrom's voice that I 
thought for a moment I was hearing Dr. Zitrom himself. 

Caught up in the spell of this graphic performance, the 
citizens felt themselves transported back to the pastry shop. 
As they once more lived through the traumatic scene, they 
stared at the shouting man in sheer horror. Even those who 
had not been present, the whores and the guards, were un- 
der the illusion that they were actually experiencing the 
scene at the pastry shop. 

Mr. Rappaport went on imitating Dr. Zitrom. He 
snapped into military posture, planted himself squarely be- 
fore the guests, and ordered his imaginary adjutants: "Let 
no one out of here!" 

His realistic portrayal threw the townsfolk into such a 
state of fright that they leaped to their feet and started rush- 
ing wildly toward the door. Engaged in a frantic hand-to- 
hand struggle with the imaginary adjutants, they struck out 
with their fists at phantom faces and hurled their shoulders 
against phantom bodies in order to break through. But the 
two imaginary soldiers were made of steel; they did not yield 
an inch. 

"Let me out, have pity!" Madam President begged, fall- 
ing to her knees and embracing the imaginary legs of the 
two immovable soldiers. "Think of my poor Bertram with 
his diabetes. I can't leave him all alone with no one to pre- 
pare his diet!" she wailed. 

Whereupon, as if part of a chain reaction, a plainly 
dressed matron lamented, "My poor little Timmy and Linda 
what will become of them? I must get back home. Who 
else will look after them? I must go to them, do you hear! 
You have children too; where are your hearts!" She pleaded 
so imploringly that even the hearts of imaginary soldiers 
should have been softened. But imaginary soldiers have no 
hearts. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

To cap it all, the girl Malva began screeching, "Philip, 
Philip, my only love! Never again . . ." and fainted dead 
away on the floor. 

I don't know how we would have coped with this situa- 
tion if one of the ladies had not come to our aid. Her snow- 
white hair and unwrinkled face, as rosy as a baby's, had 
struck me as familiar from the moment I first saw her. But I 
had been unable to recall where we had met. Now, how- 
ever, as she began rallying the mother of Timmy and 
Linda whom she addressed as Mrs. Dolbin I suddenly 
remembered that she was one of the gray ladies I had seen 
at the Castle Hospital. Now she soothed successively Mrs. 
Dolbin, Malva and Madam President. 

With these three quieted, the others settled down once 
more, with the exception of one man whose strange be- 
havior had intrigued me all along. He kept hopping from 
one place to the next, his head all the while darting to right 
and left like a feeding sparrow's. His hard mouth, pursed 
like a beak, and his rounded paunch, jutting from a long- 
tailed brown frock coat in short, his whole appearance 
had the quality of a sparrow. What most irritated me about 
this rara avis was the monotonous cry he repeated from time 
to time: "Everything must come to an end." 

The girls of the house had served tea. For a while all sat 
together in silence, but their bitterness was still seething. A 
gaunt man with sallow cheeks, hollowed eyes, a bilious ex- 
pression and a nicotine-stained goatee finally broke the 
spell. 

"Where I come into it, I don't know to this day," he 
began. As he spoke he nervously lit a cigarette, carefully 
pinched it out after only a few puffs, obviously in order to 
conserve his meager supply, but then relit it almost im- 
mediately. "I was at work revising the town budget when 
two uniformed men entered my office and demanded, 'Did 
you see the chief of protocol yesterday?' 'Of course, I have 



viii Family Life in the Bordello) IAI 

official business with him/ I replied. 'Then follow us!' And 
before I knew what was going on they dragged me away, 
jammed me into a limousine and dumped me at the pastry 
shop." 

"That is exactly what happened to me/' exclaimed a dan- 
dified young man whose hair was slicked back with pomade 
and whose eyes kept snapping open and shut. " 'Rogemund, 
hurry with these medicines to Notary Boshavan/ my boss 
ordered me. On my way a soldier took hold of me and 
marched me off to the pastry shop." 

"I knew from the start it would turn out this way/' mut- 
tered a moon-faced man who looked around so blackly that 
the gloom of his eyes seemed to hang like a cloud above his 
rotund body. "Even on our way back from the reception 
at the parade grounds I said to my wife, Katerina, 'I can't 
explain it, but I have a feeling that all this will turn out 
badly.' " 

"Everything must come to an end/' the twittering bird 
man put in. 

" 'Why, you're out of your mind, Hugo!' she snapped at 
me," the corpulent man continued. " 'Call me crazy, but I 
have a kind of intuition/ I told her. 'Then kindly keep it to 
yourself/ she replied. 'If any of the officials heard us, God 
forbid, they'd cancel the whole lard order. And then our 
dog Fatty and the two of us could go right ahead and fry in 
our own lard.' I remained mum, because I didn't want the 
order canceled, but I thought what I thought." 

"No, I never would have believed it," Madam President 
put in passionately. "To think that they would do this to 
me, to me who have sacrificed two sons to our country. I ask 
you, is this gratitude? To think that our own army on our 
own soil should treat people with such inhuman callousness 
this is something unprecedented in all history." 

"Well, certain inhumanities are inevitable in warfare/' a 
bald-headed man with black horn-rimmed glasses and a 



js 2 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

wispy mustache spoke up. "As we know, there have been 
acts of inhumanity in all wars for example, in the Franco- 
Prussian War, in Napoleon's campaigns, in the Thirty 
Years' War I could adduce hundreds of examples, back as 
far as . . ." 

Madam President was every inch a lady of breeding. Yet 
when the bald-headed historian reached Caesar and started 
to review the Punic Wars, her patience gave out. 

"Professor Drish," she said, "you know that as president of 
the Cultural League I welcome your mission in Drohitz. 
But with all due respect I must tell you that I consider it 
poor taste indeed that while I am speaking of the two sons I 
have lost, you choose to show off your erudition about the 
Punic and God-knows-what-other wars. ... I am well aware 
that you are a noted historian commissioned to collect 
data for the war archives. But don't you see that you are 
dealing with human beings here, and not with documents, 
with people who are being humiliated and mistreated in the 
most inhuman fashion imaginable . . . ? I really must say, 
this is simply beyond me. . . ." 

"I am only glad my poor dear daddy did not have to live 
to see this," Eve blurted out. "A general with his high ideals 
could not have stomached such baseness on the part of our 
army/' 

The professor looked baffled. "But I only meant, looking 
at it from the historical point of view . . ." he apologized. 
No one listened; the whole company fell upon him at once. 

"And I suppose what the army did to the mayor means 
nothing to you?" 

"And the beastly way they treated our deputation!" 

"And ruining our whole business I suppose that's patri- 
otic behavior!" Ludmilla protested. 

"Professor What's-your-name, Mr. Historian, Mr. Docu- 
ment-collector or whatever you are, don't you understand 
that girls like us have to live too?" Violetta squalled at him. 



viii Family Life in the Bordello ) j, 2 

"Why, in wartime girls like us are ... are historically 
important to the soldiers/' Myra seconded her. 

"Only an out-of-towner could think like that, never a 
born Drohitzer," Mrs. Moffet commented. 

"I'll tell you something, Professor," Mr. Humperdinger 
snorted. "I am not an educated man I just managed to 
finish grammar school and I don't know nothing about 
the Caesars or the Punics. But I can tell you one thing, no 
army could have acted worse than ours, and if that isn't so 
my name isn't Humperdinger and I'll never bake a Humper- 
dinger rum baba again." 

A neatly dressed elderly gentleman, the insurance agent 
Ginzele, tried to restore peace. "My dear Professor," he said, 
"I happen to have attended the university and am well in- 
formed on historical events. Naturally history is replete with 
atrocities. Nevertheless you will have to grant that the hu- 
miliating situation in which we find ourselves here cannot 
be regarded from a historical point of view. What has been 

done to us and to our city in an unequivocal But it is 

better, perhaps, that I say no more." 

"Why not, Mr. Ginzele, why not call a spade a spade?" a 
pug-nosed little blonde put in. 

Lieutenant Waldo decided that it was time to sneak 
away. "Ember," he whispered to me, "would you be so kind 
as to take my place for a few minutes? I have a call of na- 
ture." 

No sooner was he out of the door than the pug-nosed 
blonde burst out: "Scandalous, that's what it is, an outrage. 
They're pigs and prigs, the whole army, the whole officers' 
corps. God knows I speak from experience. First acting 
nicey-nicey, paying us compliments, settling down comfy in 
our best beds, and afterward behaving like barbarians." 

The tone in which she said "our best beds" instantly 
called to mind the associated phrase, "spring mattresses." Of 
course, this was the pretty blonde who had boasted of her 



14 A ( Th e Silver Bacchanal 

beds with spring mattresses when our officers were being 
quartered. 

"Yes, downright barbarians," everyone cried out in 
chorus. 

"Quite right, barbarians, vandals, Huns!" Professor Drish 
now agreed, to everyone's surprise. 

"Bravo, bravo!" they all cheered him, and immediately 
took up the slogan: "Barbarians, vandals, Huns!" The words 
rang through the room. 

I was debating whether to curb them or not, but decided 
to do nothing at all for the present. After all, it was Waldo's 
duty to defend the honor of the officers' corps, and what did 
I care about the damned army command? If the honor of 
dead members of the army had been impugned, that would 
have been a different matter! 

A sudden sob put an end to the uproar. Malva was weep- 
ing inconsolably. 

"Why, Malva," the gray lady addressed her, "what is the 
matter? You must keep your courage up, like the rest of us." 

"Mama finally gave her consent for Philip and me to 
marry as soon as he gets home on furlough. But if he ever 
finds out that I've been here in this this place, he may 
never want to marry me. Oh, what a wonderful life we 
would have had, without a care in the world, with his salary 
as a railroad engineer." 

"Railroad engineer!" Ludmilla suddenly screeched so pas- 
sionately all heads turned toward her. "My intended, my 
Julius, was a railroad engineer too. We could have been so 
happy together. If only that scheming boarder, that double- 
crossing Viennese, hadn't come between us. If only I hadn't 
fallen for his line. Afterward it was all over with Julius. He 
treated me like dirt. And my dad, he gave me the boot. After 
that I didn't care a damn what happened." 

Forgetting her own grief, Malva spontaneously ran and 
threw her arms around Ludmilla. "We must both be brave!" 
she cried. 



vni Family Life in the Bordello ) f , - 

"Yes, we must all be brave in these difficult times/' 
Madam President agreed. She took Ludmilla and Malva by 
the arm and withdrew with them to a corner of the room. 

Things quieted down and when Lieutenant Waldo re- 
appeared at last, I could set out on my already overdue 
rounds. 

Nothing in the world can break down the barriers of class 
and manners and unite people from all walks of life as 
quickly as anger and resentment against common injustice. 
In a case like this strangers a world apart draw close in no 
time, and mutual bitterness and grief form a united front. 

When I returned to the Silver Hall, I found whores and 
solid citizens deep in talk with one another, exchanging ac- 
counts of the life they had led before the army disrupted 
Drohitz. I joined them, and soon Lieutenant Waldo and the 
guards moved closer to the group. For a while they lapped 
up the conversation, though from a certain distance, like 
eavesdroppers, but finally they moved chairs up to the circle 
and joined it. We were all sitting together like one big 
happy family. That act broke down the last barriers between 
the prisoners in the Silver Hall and their guards. 

The townsfolk were eagerly telling stories of their peace- 
ful pursuit of happiness in their sheltered family circles. The 
girls of the Silver Hall listened spellbound. Lolo, Mitzi and 
Tamara sat well-nigh frozen, their expressions reverent, their 
eyes wide open, like prim young misses in their pews during 
Sunday sermon. Others kept their eyes closed, in reveries. 
Many of the girls seemed touched to the quick, recalling 
happy days which they had spent with their families before 
a love of adventure had caused them to break away. Seized 
by belated repentance or envy, one or the other girl would 
sigh deeply and shift uneasily back and forth in her chair. 
Ludmilla and Griselda were barely choking back their rising 
sobs. 

The soldiers, who had so long been parted from their 



JA 6 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

loved ones back home, were likewise gripped by nostalgia. 
Daydreaming my way back to the happy times of peace, I 
suddenly saw my mother, the way she had wept when I 
bade her goodbye. "Mama," I sobbed, and I had to produce 
my handkerchief to dry my tears. Lieutenant Waldo, who 
had left wife and children behind, turned away to conceal 
his emotion. Even so coarse-grained a fellow as Kalabas 
brushed the sleeve of his tunic over his eyes. After all, under 
every uniform there was a son, a brother, a husband, a fa- 
ther. 

Then it was the girls' turn to tell about their lives, about 
their experiences with clients, about the wild orgies which 
had been the order of the day or rather of the night about 
the tricks of their trade; and now the Drohitzers listened 
spellbound. An unknown world opened up for them, a 
world of sensual delights which convention had barred from 
them. 

What fun to sit, watch and listen. The gray lady was 
flushed to the roots of her snow-white hair. Malva, undone 
with embarrassment, sat with downcast eyes riveted to her 
lap. Mr. Humperdinger puffed and gasped. Mrs. Moffet re- 
moved her collar and fingered nervously at the neck of her 
dress. The lard dealer's gloomy moon-face had changed to a 
noonday sun, and cast searing rays all about. Rogemund's 
blinking eyes flitted around restlessly like lustful butterflies, 
settling now on this, now on another of the girls. The pro- 
fessor removed his horn-rimmed glasses and shut his eyes, in 
order to visualize more vividly the subject matter of these 
far-from-ancient histories. Madam President struggled to 
preserve her decorum. But her majestic bosom began heav- 
ing up and down, straining at the bonds of her tight taffeta 
dress like young foals determined to escape the corral and 
gallop away. 

For some of the Drohitzers, the girls' frank tales struck 
direct to the heart of the matter. A lustful glee spotted their 



vni Family Life in the Bordello) 

faces like a rash, and their nostrils quivered like those of 
animals in rut. The pug-nosed blonde slipped farther and 
farther off her seat, and soon lay half melting on the floor. 
Refined Mr. Ginzcle slid obscenely about on his chair, and 
quite unexpectedly uttered a whinnying sound. 

Eve and Angela, as if by mutual agreement, were bom- 
barding me with sensual glances that burned my skin right 
through the uniform. I reached the boiling point, and dis- 
regarding all military regulations I opened my collar button 
and loosened my belt. The other soldiers listened with rapt 
attention. After all, there were men inside those uniforms! 

The mounting heat in the room reached its peak when 
Ludmilla told of a certain cavalry captain who had hustled 
her up to her room and fallen upon her with the ferocity of 
a starved bear, his big paws pulling at her breasts so that 
they were still sore. "But that," she said, "was only the be- 
ginning." 

Just at this thrilling moment, the idiotic birdman ruined 
the mood for everyone with his twittering: "Everything 
must come to an end." 

I was infuriated, jumped to my feet, ready to slap his silly 
beak, when he piped, "What's going on? It's already two. 
Feeding time, isn't it?" 

Violetta sprang up in alarm. "Good Lord, the pea soup 
will be burned," she exclaimed and rushed out into the 
kitchen. 

The previous mood could not be recaptured. Ludmilla, 
suddenly conscious of her growling stomach, lost interest in 
the description of her cavalry captain's eccentricities. Soon 
afterward we sat down to eat. 

Seldom, however, had a meal been polished off so quickly, 
a table cleared so rapidly. As soon as the dishes were done, 
everyone huddled together once more. 

The girls of the Silver Hall desired to learn how a respec- 
table woman caught herself a husband, and how on earth 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

she managed to go on sleeping with one and the same man 
year in and out. 

The ladies in their turn questioned the girls about the 
finer points of their trade, whether they really enjoyed do- 
ing it with a different man each time and even with several 
strangers the very same night. 

They also exchanged stories about Mayor Gospoda, who 
had played a significant part in everyone's life, having been 
a kind of father to all the Drohitzers. Several of the citizens 
expressed concern as to what would become of the town 
without his wise guidance. The girls worried about the fu- 
ture of the Silver Hall, now that poor Madame Renoir, who 
had been a mother to all of them, had suffered a collapse. 

The soldiers too were concerned over the way the war 
would go now that the infection had given everything so 
unexpected a turn. 

I would gladly have contributed to the general conversa- 
tion and I tried several times to relate my wartime ex- 
periences, but somehow I could not get a word in edgewise. 
One time Mrs. Dolbin broke in to quote us some of Tim- 
my's and Linda's precocious remarks. Then Eve had to 
mention several inspiring pronouncements on the noble 
mission of the army by her father, the general, while Mr. 
Rappaport entertained us greatly by mimicking certain com- 
ical incidents in Drohitz society. The lard dealer talked 
about his well-trained pug, Fatty. Finally Mr. Humper- 
dinger told the story of how, as a young baker's apprentice, 
he had hit upon the idea of creating the Humperdinger 
rum baba which had since made his name a byword 
throughout the country. 

"Ah, yes, the Humperdinger rum baba," Madam Presi- 
dent exclaimed, and she recollected the mammoth cake Mr. 
Humperdinger had baked for the baptism of her eldest son, 
who had died fighting for his country. By such easy stages 
she was led to think of the difficult confinement she had had 
when this son was born. 



viii Family Life in the Bordello ) j ^ Q 

Then Malva had to tell us how her mother had at first 
opposed her marriage to Philip. Myra, the redhead, told of 
the decline of her family when her father, a factory worker, 
lost his leg in an industrial accident. Griselda narrated how 
one of her father's friends, a lewd art dealer, had lured her 
to his flat on the pretext of showing her some rare etchings. 
Mrs. Moffet, whose husband had been reported missing in 
action, and who was living with her mother-in-law, com- 
plained of all she had to put up with from the querulous old 
lady. 

So it continued for hours. Household habits, the peculi- 
arities and whims of husbands, the peculiarities and whims 
of regular patrons and passing strangers in the Silver Hall, 
questions of dress, secrets of beauty culture, treasured reci- 
pes for cakes and soups, the tricks of half a dozen trades 
the day was not long enough for these intimate exchanges. 

At first, it had been simple curiosity on the part of the 
moral and the immoral inhabitants of Drohitz that had 
brought them together. But now they became genuinely 
concerned with one another. Whenever Mrs. Dolbin re- 
turned to her pet topic of Timmy and Linda, the girls of 
the Silver Hall glowed with maternal pride. When the lard 
dealer told of Fatty's fabulous tricks, everyone expressed great 
surprise. When Malva described the sweet shiver that had 
gone all over her her when Philip pressed the first kiss upon 
her cheek, all the girls of the Silver Hall shared the virginal 
thrill of this kiss. And when Madam President spoke of the 
firemen's ball in Drohitz (a good twenty years ago, that 
was) when she, newly married, started off the first waltz on 
her Bertram's arm, dressed in a taffeta gown ordered spe- 
cially from Vienna then the listening girls seemed to feel 
the rustling flounces brushing their own legs, and they be- 
gan swaying back and forth as though they themselves were 
waltzing with Bertram over the waxed parquet. 

It was the same vice versa. When Ludmilla called to 
mind that fateful night when the accursed boarder had 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

stolen into her room and taken her by surprise, and when 
she described her feelings when her fiance, the railroad en- 
gineer, had thrown her over the good ladies shared in her 
feelings to the point of total identification as though they 
themselves had been pounced on in the night, shamefully 
diddled in the afternoon, and as though the subsequent dis- 
illusionment and despair had been their own lot. 

Ladies of breeding and ladies of pleasure had merged into 
a single body, a single soul, and the hearts of virgins, wives 
and mothers began to beat in the breasts of whores, while 
the mauled and tattered hearts of the whores pounded in 
the bosoms of the townswomen. Civilians and soldiers, too, 
merged into a single throbbing heart. The townsmen suf- 
fered with the soldiers all the privations and terrors the 
latter had endured in foxholes and under fire, shared their 
rejoicing over the order for strategic withdrawal, and waxed 
anxious over the probable outcome of the war. And as 
though the soldiers themselves were native Drohitzers, they 
in their turn felt outraged by the shameful treatment of the 
mayor and the town deputation and wondered how Drohitz 
would manage henceforth, now that good Mayor Gospoda 
was no longer with them. And civilians and soldiers alike 
deplored Madame Renoir's heart attack as much as the girls, 
and feared for the future of the Silver Hall without her ex- 
perienced guidance. 

From my earliest youth a good share of adventure had 
come my way. Impelled by curiosity and a desire to get the 
most out of life, I had plunged head over heels into living, 
had gone a-galloping on all sorts of mounts, suffered all 
manner of dogs to yap at my heel, had tasted victory and de- 
feats, was at home in many countries and cities, had lolled 
in many soft beds, dwelt in miry holes in the ground, re- 
joiced and regretted, regaled myself and repented. And yet 
I had never confronted life as fully as in this defunct bor- 
dello, listening to the palaver of a motley group of soldiers, 



viii Family Life in the Bordello) 

townsfolk and whores. At times it seemed to me that I was 
watching the mysterious loom of life weaving the manifold 
destinies of man into a single fabric, a weird and wonderful 
pattern. 



IX 

Charades 



Q 



ne afternoon as I entered the Silver Hall 
a mood of anxiety seemed to have gripped the townspeople. 

"I wonder what will happen to all of us in the end?" 
asked Mrs. Dolbin in a strangely subdued voice. 

Others took up the theme. "Yes, really, what is going to 
become of us?" 

"I can tell you!" exclaimed Tamara to everyone's surprise. 

"Yes, Tamara, go ahead," her friend Griselda urged her. 

"All right, then I'll bring my cards," Tamara said, and off 
she went. 

In her absence, Griselda extolled Tamara's gifts as a for- 
tuneteller. She told the story of Barbara, a girl who had put 
in quite a few years in the Silver Hall and was no longer 
in the bloom of youth. Tamara's cards had predicted that 
within a year Barbara would have a rich bridegroom. Sure 
enough, the year was not yet over when one night a travel- 
ing fur dealer named Shushak had come to the Silver Hall 
and made Barbara's acquaintance. He returned the follow- 
ing two nights, and a month later, when he was again in 
Drohitz on business, he paid Madame Renoir off for Bar- 
bara, took her with him, and now she was wealthy Mrs. Shu- 
shak, one of the first ladies of Podol. 



ix Charades ) 

"And do you remember/' volunteered Myra, "how Ta- 
mara saw in the cards that I would be given an expensive 
ring? Pretty soon, that reserve lieutenant up to his ears in 
debt came along; he'd made up his mind to shoot himself, 
but he was spending his last night in the Silver Hall, and 
he gave me this ring in return for a happy ending." She 
stripped an amethyst ring from her finger. And as the ring 
passed from hand to hand and was properly admired, I saw 
Tamara entering the room, her long, black hair reflected in 
all the mirrors. 

She sat down at one of the tables and began shuffling the 
cards like a regular gypsy. Everyone gathered around her; 
only the birdman abstained. 

"Don't you want to have your fortune told, Mr. Dingda?" 
Mr. Rappaport inquired. 

"Don't need it," the birdman chirped. 

"You're not afraid of finding out your future?" Roge- 
mund chaffed him. 

"Me afraid? Fiddlesticks! I just don't have any need for 
such nonsense," Dingda twittered, and hopped away. 

Mrs. Moffet had first turn. Tamara held out the cards for 
her to cut, and then dealt them out in three rows of nine. 
Everyone craned his neck. 

Tamara studied the cards attentively. "A nice how-do-you- 
do," she murmured, pointing to the jack of hearts, which 
had turned up alongside the nine of spades. She whispered 
something into Mrs. Moffet's ear. 

"Why, that's just wonderful!" Mrs. Moffet exclaimed, 
beaming. 

"No secrets, please," the others insisted. "We all want to 
know/' 

Mrs. Moffet gave her consent, and Tamara announced 
that a near relation of Mrs. Moffet's would soon pass away. 

"And who do you think it is? None other than my nag- 
ging mother-in-law," Mrs. Moffet exulted. "You all know 



j e-j ( The Silver Bacchanal 

what I have to take from that woman." 

"Congratulations, congratulations!" the others cried. 

On the whole the cards were favorable. For Mrs. Dolbin 
the five of diamonds was ninth card from the center, which 
suggested that she would soon be seeing Timmy and Linda 
again. From the excellent position of the ace of clubs 
Madam President could count on finding her Bertram well 
and happy. The cards promised Mr. Ginzele an unexpected 
business coup. The two of hearts indicated that Humper- 
dinger, a widower, would remarry. The pug-nosed blonde 
would find a handsome lover, Eve three of clubs a whole 
host of men. And so it went, one after the other. Happiness, 
love, money was the constant refrain, and at each prophecy 
the others cried in chorus: "Congratulations, congratula- 
tions!" 

At last came Malva's turn in her modesty she had waited 
until last. The cards were cut and laid out. Here the king, 
there the two of diamonds, the five of diamonds. Tamara 
looked at the cards as though she did not trust her eyes. 
"Why, but it's perfectly clear," she exclaimed at last, point- 
ing at the five of diamonds which lay directly between the 
diamond king and diamond queen. "There simply is no 
doubt about it." 

"Don't keep me on pins and needles," Malva said. "Is it 
good or bad?" 

"The finest thing you could wish for," Tamara said. 
"Here, do you see," she went on, pointing to the queen, 
"this is you, and this" she indicated the king "is your 
Philip, and here" she tapped the five of diamonds "is the 
baby. You're going to have a baby, and very soon; two of 
diamonds, a boy; the jack of hearts is the ninth card." 

"Shocking!" Madam President exclaimed. "What will 
your mother, Madame de Beaujoin, say to it? How could 
you?" 

Malva turned fiery red and burst into tears. 



ix Charades) 

Madam President at once changed her tune. "Silly child, 
there isn't any reason to cry," she said, trying to appease the 
sobbing girl, and took Malva into her arms. 

"Such things happen in the best of families/' Mr. Rappa- 
port observed. 

It was not easy to soothe Malva. "Oh, what am I going 
to do?" she wailed. "If Mama finds out . . ." 

"Don't worry about it. I shall explain the situation to 
her," Madam President assured her. 

"The disgrace! The scandal! No, I simply can't go through 
with it," Malva wailed. 

"Nonsense, Malva, there's not a soul will blame you for 
it," Eve told her. 

"Why, such a thing means nothing at all nowadays, in 
wartime," the pug-nosed blonde put in. 

"You ought to be happy, Malva," Mrs. Moffet urged. 
"Whatever happens to us, you at least will have your little 
Philip." 

"Then you will learn what true happiness is," Mrs. Dolbin 
added. 

"How I envy you," Ludmilla exclaimed. "To be carrying 
a child. Ever since I was thirteen I've dreamed about having 
a kid inside of me. May I touch it, place my hand on it 
just for a moment?" 

A shy smile dispelled the tears from Malva's eyes. She 
nodded her permission. 

Ludmilla patted the girth of Malva's abdomen. "How nice 
it feels!" 

And then the other Silver Hall girls thronged around the 
pregnant girl. "May I too?" Violetta asked. "Me too? Me 
too?" begged Griselda, Myra and Tamara, one after the 
other. Each went carefully up to Malva and put her hand 
respectfully upon her middle. "How nice it feels." 

The crowding apparently became too much for Malva. 
She turned pale and began to sway. 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

"Good heavens, she's fainting/' 

"A chair, quick!" 

"The sofa's better, so that she can stretch out." 

They at once moved the sofa over and bedded Malva 
down on it. 

"A few pillows would make her more comfortable." 

Instantly several of the girls ran out of the room and re- 
turned with a heap of pillows and blankets. The gray lady 
arranged two pillows under Malva's head, and one under 
her feet, and was just about to tuck in the blankets when 
Mrs. Dolbin suggested that the girl's dress ought to be un- 
buttoned. 

"Would the gentlemen have the kindness to turn around 
for a moment?" Madam President suggested. 

"But they'll see in the mirrors," Violetta cried out. "Better 
if they close their eyes." 

Like one man we all, townsfolk and soldiers alike, closed 
our eyes. 

"There, now the gentlemen can look again," Violetta 
said a moment later. 

There lay Malva, reflected on all sides, like a queen await- 
ing the birth of the crown prince, reposing on pillows, swad- 
dled in blankets, surrounded by a band of attentive women. 

After she had recovered somewhat, Malva wanted to get 
up. 

"For Heaven's sake, no," the others cried out. 

"A woman in your condition has to take care of herself. 
You need plenty of rest." 

"Yes, you must take it easy." 

"Would you like something to brace you? Hot bouillon, 
or a cup of tea?" 

"No, thank you." 

"But you must take something, for little Philip's sake. 
A nourishing soup or porridge." 

"Good nourishment is the main thing when you're expect- 
ing," Mrs. Dolbin said. 



ix Charades ) J 5 7 

"Let me take care of that/' Violetta said, speeding off to 
the kitchen. 

In their solicitude the ladies and the girls of the Silver Hall 
could not lavish enough care upon Malva; each tried to outdo 
the other. Some of the girls conferred in whispers on how 
they could get together the layette. "Not a baby in the world 
is going to have a nicer layette than our little Philip. We'll 
knit everything from bonnet to socks." 

Mrs. Dolbin remembered that Linda's old cradle was still 
put away in the attic. As soon as she returned to town, she 
promised, she would have the cradle fixed up for little Philip. 

The men, too, did not stand by idle. Mr. Rappaport took 
checkbook and fountain pen from his breast pocket and 
handed Malva a substantial check which was to be used for 
the future education of her little Philip. Mr. Ginzele prom- 
ised that as soon as the quarantine was lifted he would make 
out a life insurance policy for little Philip, and of course his 
agency would take care of the premiums. Mr. Humperdinger 
came forth with an offer to bake the baptismal cake. 

Here I saw an opportunity to make a contribution of my 
own. "Father Jacopo is a good friend of mine," I said, "and 
will certainly not refuse if I ask him to officiate at the baby's 
baptism. He is a broad-minded person; he is a true servant of 
God." 

"Still, it would be better if the birth of the child were 
legalized by marriage," Lieutenant Waldo observed, and he 
promised to put in a word with the commander, who might 
arrange for an emergency furlough. 

At first Malva could scarcely believe that all this fuss over 
her was actually happening. But gradually she began to ac- 
cept it calmly as her due. She stretched out comfortably on 
the sofa and closed her eyes for a moment. 

"Shh, shh, she's asleep," Mrs. Dolbin whispered. 

All fell silent, lost in reverence, as though they were wit- 
nesses to a miracle taking place here in the Silver Hall. It 
was as if an angel were passing through the room, although 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

he was not reflected and multiplied in the mirrors. Eyes 
fixed in rapture upon the pregnant girl, everyone stood still 
in a transport of emotion. Even Dingda, the bird, was af- 
fected by the general atmosphere. To be sure, he could 
not entirely suppress his gloomy twitter. But whenever the 
time came for it, he hippity-hopped to the farthest corner of 
the room, held his hand over his beak, and piped his call 
discreetly into his cupped palm. 

Gradually life in the Silver Hall assumed an everyday, 
commonplace character. The girls of the house generously 
lent the townswomen their whole whores' assortment of 
beauty preparations for their morning toilette rouge, pow- 
der, perfume, lipstick, vanishing cream and scented soaps. 
Then, while the ladies were putting the Mirror Room to 
rights, the gentlemen would use the bathrooms. 

Each morning Dr. Kapra made a brief medical checkup be- 
fore he went on his rounds through the annexes. Afterward, 
all would assemble for breakfast together. The rest of the 
morning was spent on a variety of domestic chores. Some 
of the ladies cleaned, others helped Violetta in the kitchen, 
while others collected the laundry, washed, ironed, mended 
and sewed. Those who were adept at fine needlework gath- 
ered around Malva's sofa, knitting and embroidering the 
tiny garments for little Philip's layette. 

Early in the afternoon the inmates of the Silver Hall took 
the air in Madame Renoir's garden. During this time the 
guards were moved from the front door to the garden gate. 

Afternoons were usually spent in bright chatter around 
Malva's sofa, or in cards, party games and similar distractions. 
In their effort to entertain Malva and themselves, the 
townsfolk, girls and soldiers vied with one another in invent- 
ing all kinds of amusements. Thus Mr. Rappaport gave a 
gala performance in which he impersonated in turn each 
member of the group and finally, amid general cheers, broke 



ix Charades) 

into the mewling of a newborn baby, completing the por- 
trait by kicking his feet and tossing his arms. The guards, 
on a suggestion of mine, improvised a kind of war scene in 
puppet-theater style, in which one shot the other until in the 
end all lay on the floor dead as doornails. Ludmilla hit upon 
the idea of holding a fashion show along with Madam Presi- 
dent, she dressing up as a lady and promenading about 
with genteel gestures while Madam President decked herself 
out as a whore and swaggered with swaying hips. 

During the fashion show Eve kept throwing hot looks at 
me, until my blood was seething. I approached her, but the 
little minx, moody as she was, suddenly changed her mind 
and gave me the cold shoulder. Disappointed and somewhat 
dazed, I strolled over to a group of lotto players. On my 
way I bumped into Mr. Dingda and stepped on one of 
his restless toes. He did not take it amiss, and as clashes at 
times bring people closer together, we started talking and 
I learned that in real life he was the proprietor of the 
Drohitz funeral parlor. Having found out that we were, so to 
speak, professional cousins and shared many interests, Mr. 
Dingda became amazingly loquacious and discussed at 
great length the respective merits of handmade and factory- 
made coffins. I, for my part, told him about my burials 
with and without coffins up on the hill. In sprightly colloquy 
we both hopped up and down for a while, although I had 
some difficulty adjusting to his tempo. 

While we were hopping the others played cards or lotto, 
gossiped, knitted, flirted, and when I looked for Eve I 
found that Violetta was busy doing her hair in Silver Hall 
style. Ludmilla was in the midst of explaining certain tricks 
of her trade to the pug-nosed blonde, illustrating her words 
with graphic motions. A number of townswomen were eaves- 
dropping on this conversation with growing interest, and at 
last they all dropped their various games. Eve had jumped to 
her feet, her coiffure half done, and even the group around 



(The Silver Bacchdnd 

Madam President suspended their needlework to attend Lud- 
milla's exciting seminar. 

This idyllic routine in the Silver Hall did not, however, go 
on for long. It ended one fine day with that brutal brusque- 
ness with which good things so often come to an end, sud- 
denly, without warning. The day started out pleasantly 
enough. During my morning check of the sick lists I did not 
find a single critical case and I rubbed my hands in content- 
ment. In the course of my rounds, I dropped in on Barnabas 
to deliver the happy message Dr. Kapra had given me for 
him. 

"You will only have to stay in bed another day or two, 
Barnabas," I said. "Then you can come down into the Hall 
again." He received this with his usual roar of laughter, and 
out of old comradeliness I laughed along with him. 

When I entered the Silver Hall a game of charades was in 
progress. The inmates stood divided into two groups, one 
consisting of the townsfolk, the other of the girls and the 
soldiers. Each group was alternately guessing proverbs. 

"Ember, you're just in time, we need one more on our 
side," my fellows greeted me. "We've all had turns, so this 
one is yours. You know the rules?" 

"I sure do." 

I went up to the group of townsfolk, fished a slip out of 
the lard dealer's hat and deciphered the proverb scribbled on 
the paper. I'm not much of an actor anyhow, and to make 
matters worse I had bad luck on the drawing. If only I had 
picked a proverb that fell more or less into the line of my 
experience, such as: "The paths of glory lead but to the 
grave." But as hard luck would have it, I was supposed to 
do: "Pride goeth before a fall." 

I signaled with my fingers that the proverb to be guessed 
had five words. Then I tried to represent the words in panto- 
mime. The word "fall" gave me no trouble, and my team 



ix Charades) l6l 

guessed it right off. But when I had to act out "pride," I 
was sunk. After all, how could a person like me, a trainee in 
humiliation, act out "pride" in a convincing manner? Before 
I knew it, the three-minute interval allowed for guessing had 
slipped by. We had lost the round, and the score remained 
even. 

Now it was Mr. Rappaport's turn on the townspeople's 
team. A born mime, he was in his element, of course. No 
sooner had he drawn his slip from Lieutenant Waldo's 
army cap than he set to enacting the proverb in a masterly 
manner. He crouched, made himself small as a child, moved 
his hands playfully about, wiggled his finger upward like a 
tongue of flame, and stroke by stroke his side guessed: child 
play fire. And when he capped his act with a grimace of 
pain and sharply drew his hand back in alarm, Eve cried out 
triumphantly: "The burnt child dreads the fire." 

"One and one half minutes," the umpire announced. 

"Fourteen to thirteen in our favor," the townsfolk rejoiced. 

Now it was our group's turn again. But Mr. Rappaport 
seemed unwilling to quit the stage. Rather, in the typical 
manner of ham actors who become intoxicated with their 
own performances, he went on mimicking the reactions of 
the burnt child. 

"All right, enough, Mr. Rappaport, you've had your turn," 
everyone objected. But he ignored these cries and persisted 
in his efforts to portray even more realistically the already- 
guessed proverb. He fell to the floor, doubled up and writhed 
about with astonishing skill. 

Everyone watched his performance half in annoyance, 
half in amusement, but at last it became too much for 
everybody. Especially our group was on pins and needles, 
for we had to win the next round or lose the game. 

"Now that's enough, Mr. Rappaport, other people want 
their turn," Lieutenant Waldo said, his voice taking on an 
edge. 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

But when Mr. Rappaport nevertheless continued his act, 
and worse still, began to groan and whimper, in violation 
of all the rules of pantomime, the Silver Hall girls lost pa- 
tience. 

"Okay, okay!" Ludmilla screamed in exasperation, and 
she, Violetta and Tamara pounced on him to put an end 
to his tomfoolery. 

To my ear, sharpened as it was by my professional work to 
the intonations of moans and whimpers, the business was 
beginning to seem rather odd. Even the greatest actor could 
not have played this scene so convincingly, to say nothing 
of a provincial ham like Mr. Rappaport. I pushed away the 
girls and bent down beside him. "Mr. Rappaport, don't you 
feel well?" I asked. 

He looked up at me out of veiled eyes. His face was 
chalky, while the blue veins of his temples protruded. Here's 
a pretty mess! I thought. 

Chummy though I was with Mr. Dingda these days, I 
nearly jumped on him when he chose this very moment to 
chirp: "Everything must come to an end." 

"Damn it all, will you keep your wisdom to yourself," I 
snarled, and struck him across the beak. 

"Ouch!" he shrieked. 

"Sorry," I murmured, somewhat ashamed of myself, and 
then turning to Rappaport, "Where does it hurt?" 

Rappaport raised a trembling arm and pointed toward his 
belly. He tried to speak, but emitted only gurgling sounds. 
It was clear that this had ceased to be mere play-acting. A 
mightier director reality was in charge of this production. 

"Quick, the stretcher," I ordered Kalabas. 

Ludmilla and the girls clustered sympathetically around 
Mr. Rappaport. Some even bent down to lift him from the 
floor. 

"For Heaven's sake, don't touch him! Everyone move 
away!" I exclaimed. "Don't you see that it's the infection." 



ix Charades) 

The fatal word had passed my lips, and now it was too 
late to call it back. Whenever that terrible word was ut- 
tered, it provoked frantic terror. But to have it spoken here 
in the Silver Hall where everyone felt so snug and sheltered, 
and to make matters worse, in the midst of a jolly game, 
made its effect the more devastating. 

For a moment all stood speechless with horror. Then their 
horror began to scream, to roar. And amazingly enough, the 
Silver Hall girls although God knows they had been living 
with this danger for some time now took the lead and 
went the farthest in despair. A frightful, insane clamor arose, 
comprised of piercing cries of alarm and curious oaths. The 
girls called down the blackest imprecations upon the heads 
of the soldiers, the Silver Hall, Creation, the seed that had 
engendered them, the day they were born. Louder, more 
and more piercingly, the fear and trembling cried out, the 
primordial fear and trembling of all ages, of all creature life. 

Before the guards knew what was happening, the whole 
company, the girls at their head, surged like a storm-lashed 
wave toward the door, where they were stopped and rolled 
back into the room like surf breaking and ebbing back 
from rocky cliffs. 

Lieutenant Waldo and the guard managed to contain 
them. I instructed Kalabas to take the girls who had come into 
contact with Mr. Rappaport to the pantry, where they were 
to be disinfected and given booster inoculations. Then Grim- 
barn, one of the medical aides, helped me carry Rappaport 
out on the stretcher. We had barely started up the stairs 
when I observed our patient's lips assuming a violet hue; his 
pupils turned up, and his chin dropped upon his chest. 
Alarmed, I halted and took his pulse. I dropped his icy, 
putty-colored hand. 

"There's no sense even carrying him up/' I said to Grim- 
barn. 

We reversed our direction and started toward room zero. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

Even before we reached it, Rappaport's sufferings had ended. 

"I'm sorry we're too late, Father/' I said as we entered, 
for I knew how punctilious Father Jacopo was about admin- 
istering the last sacraments to the dying. 

We laid the dead man carefully on the bed. Then I 
scurried back to the Mirror Room to see what had been go- 
ing on there, leaving the lifeless body to the care of Father 
Jacopo. 



X 

The Mirror Hell 



T 

JLhe 



-he idyllic life of the Silver Hall was never to 
be the same again. The panic caused by Rappaport's sudden 
collapse was no longer at the shouting and screaming stage 
by the time I returned, but it had assumed another and 
more haunting form. 

The door to the pantry opened, and Ludmilla, Violetta 
and Tamara reappeared; they had been fumigated and given 
their preventive shots. Ludmilla went directly to Madam 
President to tell her all about it. To her amazement her 
bosom friend brusquely turned her back. 

"What's the matter, Gertrude? Have I offended you?" 
Ludmilla asked in astonishment, and tried to take her hand. 
Snatching it free, Madam President retreated from her. "Let 
me be," she said sharply, and went quickly over to Malva's 
sofa just as Violetta and Tamara were approaching it. Like 
a fury, she pulled Malva to her feet, exclaiming, "For good- 
ness' sake, Malva, be careful; you have two to worry about 
now. Don't you understand?" And she bustled off, dragging 
Malva after her. 

"Be careful!" The words rang like a warning signal 
through the hall, and all at once everyone fled to the farthest 
corner of the Silver Hall, to avoid contact with the suspect 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

three. Like a bird startled by a hunter's shot, Dingda hopped 
after the others, piping, "Everything must come to an end," 
and joined the group in the corner. 

Like lepers the three stood in the middle of the room, 
isolated from the others. 

"What in the world has got into them? What do they 
have against us?" Violetta asked in utter dismay. 

"What do they have against us? Didn't you hear them say, 
'Be careful'?" Tamara replied. "They're scared because we 
touched Rappaport." 

"But I don't understand; we've been disinfected and had 
preventive shots," Violetta spluttered. "Kalabas, Ember" 
they turned to us "tell them there's no danger." 

We tried, but our lecture fell on deaf ears; we were 
treated with disdain. "None of that, we're not interested. 
And don't you come near us; you touched him too." 

"If they're going to be so stupid, let them, and the hell 
with them," Ludmilla declared. 

"You're right," Tamara agreed. "Let them stew in their 
own juice. Come, we'll sit down and have a game of Black 
Peter." 

Was it only yesterday, I thought, that we had all been sit- 
ting together in peace like a big, happy family? And now 
the others huddled in a corner, consumed by terror, and the 
three sat all by themselves in the vastness of the room two 
enemy camps. 

Lieutenant Waldo took up a post near the door, where 
he could survey the field. 

"Here's a pretty kettle of fish," I said, strolling over to him. 
""What are we going to do?" 

He shrugged. "Nothing. Just let them be. They've had a 
good scare. After all, there's no army order that they have to 
act loving. As long as they don't violate the regulations, I 
see no reason to interfere." 

"All I meant was that things were going along so nicely. 



x The Mirror Hell) T ^M 

For the first time during this war we've had some kind of 
home life." 

He threw me a mocking glance. "Who's getting senti- 
mental! Look here, Ember, when are you going to grow 
up, not to say learn how to be a real soldier? You didn't 
join the army to play house in a bordello. It was nice for a 
while, sure. Be glad for that. Now it's over. War isn't a sum- 
mer vacation. Sometimes things are the way you like them, 
sometimes not. Mostly not." 

I paced gloomily back and forth. To me, to whom the 
idyllic atmosphere of the Silver Hall had meant so much just 
because of my grim duties, because it made me forget dying 
and death, it was not so easy to accept this changed situa- 
tion. 

"So you dopes are scared of us, are you!" Ludmilla bel- 
lowed belligerently across the room to the table where the 
cautious group had settled down. "Weren't all of you as 
much with Rappaport as we were? At least we've been fumi- 
gated and had our booster shots. Not you. You're more 
exposed than we are. We ought to be scared of you, not the 
reverse!" 

The others pretended not to have heard her, but her words 
had hit home. The majority group grew restive, and could 
scarcely concentrate on the canasta game they had started. 
Madam President pettishly dropped her cards to the table. 

"Now, now," Mr. Ginzele said, "we really mustn't let our- 
selves go this way. Let's start again. Rogemund, it's your 
deal." 

Rogemund shuffled the cards, but all the while he was 
shifting uneasily about on his chair. He blinked and blinked, 
more nervously than ever before. "Excuse me for a mo- 
ment," he said, laying down his hand. The next instant he 
had left the room. 

"What's wrong with the boy?" Mrs. Dolbin asked, puz- 
zled. 



j fig (The Silver Bacchanal 

"I hope nothing ails him, God forbid/' the budget direc- 
tor said. 

"After our experience with Mr. Rappaport, I shouldn't be 
surprised," Mrs. Moffet observed. 

"Yes, yes, it looks bad," the lard dealer murmured. 

"And I had to be the one sitting next to him," Madam 
President exclaimed wildly. 

"Me too," snorted Mr. Humperdinger, who had been sit- 
ting on Rogemund's left. 

"My dear friends," Mr. Ginzele appealed in his most pru- 
dent tone, "Rogemund will be back in a moment. I'll deal 
for him meanwhile." He reached out for the cards. 

"Mr. Ginzele, for Heaven's sake don't touch these cards," 
Madam President cried in terror, clutching the sleeve of his 
jacket. "No one will make me play with these cards." 

"You mean to say you are starting to be afraid of playing 
cards too," Mr. Ginzele remonstrated. "My friends, we must 
keep a grip on ourselves." 

"Spare us this kind of talk. Until I know what ails Roge- 
mund I certainly shall not touch these cards." 

"Nor I, nor I," the others cried out. 

"If Mr. Ginzele is so keen on going on with the game, he 
can play with himself," the pug-nosed blonde said pertly. 

"Not with us, at any rate," townsfolk and girls chorused. 

"Notice how long he is staying out. I bet he's coming 
down with something," Mrs. Moffet said in a troubled voice. 

"In all probability that's what it is. Folks, I think we had 
better adjourn before he comes back," Myra suggested. 

"You're right; in such situations we cannot be careful 
enough," Madam President agreed. "Come, Malva, quick, 
before he turns up again." 

"Aren't you coming too?" Eve nudged the history profes- 
sor, who was sitting beside her. 

"By all means," the professor answered, getting to his feet. 
"Caution is the mother of all wisdom, as even the Hittites 
knew." 



x The Mirror Hell) 

"Friends, do be sensible. At least let us wait until he re- 
turns; then we'll see whether he is feeling well or not." Mr. 
Ginzele attempted to restrain them. "At any rate I am going 
to stay here." 

"Stay, if you insist on catching it from him," Eve called 
over her shoulder as she drifted off. 

One after the other, they left the table until Ginzele was 
sitting alone. 

After a while Rogemund reappeared at the door. 

"Look how pale he is and how sunken his eyes are," Gri- 
selda whispered. 

"Yes, really, pale as death and hollow-eyed," the others 
whispered. 

"Lucky we moved away in time." 

Ginzele, who had doggedly kept his seat, grew visibly 
more nervous as Rogemund approached the table. 

"What's happened?" Rogemund asked. "No more ca- 
nasta?" 

Without deigning to reply, Ginzele rose abruptly and 
joined the group of cautious souls. 

"Mr. Ginzele," Rogemund exclaimed, running after him. 
"Professor, Eve, Malva" he turned from one to the other 
"tell me what is the matter." 

"Mr. Rogemund," Madam President said, bristling, "will 
you kindly cease molesting us. Can't you see that none of us 
want to have anything more to do with you?" 

"But why not? What have I done?" Rogemund asked, 
blinking pitifully. 

"One thing you might do is not blink incessantly; you 
drive a person crazy with it," Madam President spluttered. 
"Look at yourself in the mirrors and watch yourself blinking 
back at you a hundredfold." 

"What is there so special to see?" Rogemund asked, ex- 
amining himself in one of the mirrors. "I look just as I always 
look. I'm pale and I blink by nature." 

"If you are blind, that is your own affair," Madam Presi- 



j/70 (The Silver Bacchanal 

dent replied. "Everyone else sees it. And the way you rushed 
out just like that in the middle of dealing I suppose that 
means nothing. Well? No, my friend, you cannot deceive us. 
You had better run along and have yourself examined. That 
is my advice." 

"Oh, now I understand," Rogemund said. He could not 
repress a smile. "You mean because I had to ... But my 
dear ladies and gentlemen, I merely had to answer a call of 
nature as we all do now and then." 

"Will you kindly spare us your calls of nature! Have you no 
manners at all? I thought you a well-brought-up young man! 
Don't you think it highly improper in the presence of la- 
dies . . ." 

"Such boorishness really insufferable!" Mrs. Moffct burst 
out. 

"What can you expect of a pill-grinder like him?" Eve said 
contemptuously. 

"Do you know what you all need? As a druggist I can tell 
you: a double dose of bromide. That's it, bromide," Roge- 
mund snorted. 

"How dare you, you shameless wretch!" Madam President 
screamed at him. 

"Wretch, wretch!" they all echoed her. 

"Oh, hell." Rogemund shrugged. He went back to the 
card table and began laying out a game of solitaire. 

"Hey, Rogemund, don't you want to join us over here?" 
Ludmilla called in a reckless surge of solidarity. 

"Have you gone mad?" Tamara snapped at her. 

"You seem to be losing your grip, too," Rogemund called 
over to her. "A good dose of bromide would do you good, 
also." 

The whole affair seemed to amuse Lieutenant Waldo. He 
was right, of course, for it was too idiotic to be taken seri- 
ously. But it nearly broke my heart when I heard Eve say 
in a trembling voice, "Something can happen at any mo- 
ment." 



x The Mirror Hell) 

"And what should we do if it does?" 

"At any rate we must be prepared for anything." 

"Lucky we kept them at a safe distance." 

"The only question is whether it was not already too 
late." 

"What a ghastly situation." 

"The things a war can do to a person," Madam President 
sighed. "First my two sons, and now all of us, right in the 
midst of this epidemic where you never know when and 
if . . ." 

"Yes, yes, that is the way war is," the history professor 
said. "That is the way it is and has always been. It was simi- 
lar, I may almost say exactly the same in every detail, at the 
time of the cholera during the War of 1870 and during the 
plague in the Thirty Years' War." 

At the words cholera and plague everyone jumped as 
though stung. An inarticulate fury rumbled up from the 
crater of Madam President's firmly corseted breast and finally 
burst forth like molten lava. 

"Professor Drish, with all due respect for your scholarship, 
the manner in which you are behaving toward us here is be- 
yond description. And to make matters worse, you choose a 
moment when our nerves are strained to the utmost. At such 
a moment you come along with your ridiculous 1870 and 
your Thirty Years' War at a time like this and in spite of the 
fact that no one, not even the authorities, has the slightest 
idea what kind of infection this one is. You have the temer- 
ity, merely because you are a professor of history, to pretend 
to know what no one knows, as though you were the wis- 
est man on earth!" 

"My dear Madam President, you seem to have misunder- 
stood me," the professor hastened to assure her. "I merely 
meant that a certain parallel exists here; I mentioned these 
other wars merely as examples . . ." 

"We are not interested in your examples and you can put 
your parallels into your pipe and smoke them," Madam Pres- 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

ident interrupted. "To think that you dare to mention in our 
presence such disgusting . . . words! Do you realize what 
you have said, you you puffed-up filing case, you textbook, 
you monster! It is not this contagion, but you yourself who 
are " she forced herself to say it "a plague!" Menacingly, 
she advanced toward him. "If I were not the president of 
the Drohitz Cultural Association, if I were not a lady and 
could permit myself to give way to my feelings, do you 
know what I would do?" 

The moment had come when Lieutenant Waldo felt 
obliged to intervene. He planted himself in front of the pro- 
fessor and dressed him down in official tone: "Have I heard 
rightly? Have you been spreading irresponsible rumors? You, 
a civilian employee of the army? Rumors that not only lack 
all basis in fact, but that might endanger the entire nation, 
the whole army! We are dealing here with an infection, a 
mere infection, do you understand? This time I am only giv- 
ing you a warning. But if you continue to circulate such evil 
rumors I shall be forced to report the matter to Commander 
Mannsteufel, and then you will have to answer before a mili- 
tary tribunal!" 

The professor stood mute, utterly crushed. 

"Quite right, Lieutenant, that's where he belongs, before 
a military tribunal," several of the townspeople and girls 
called out. 

"Don't interfere with military affairs," Lieutenant Waldo 
told them, and returned to his seat. 

"I at any rate do not intend to have anything more to do 
with such a pedantic monster," Madam President said, turn- 
ing her back on the professor. Followed by several of the 
others, she sailed haughtily to the sofa. 

"I knew from the start that it would end this way," the 
lard dealer stammered. "Why, as I was coming back from the 
parade ground with Fatty and Katerina, I said . . ." 

"Nobody is interested in your preposterous second sight," 



x The Mirror Hell) 

Madam President snapped irritably. 

"My dear friend" Mr. Ginzele attempted to intervene 
"do be calmer. After all, nothing has happened yet. What is 
the sense of viewing with alarm?" 

"I should be obliged to you, Mr. Ginzele, if you would 
keep your bright suggestions to yourself," Madam President 
spat back at him. "I am as calm as I need to be. The things 
a person has to put up with here," she went on, turning to 
the others. "And he" she made a contemptuous gesture 
in Mr. Ginzele's direction "thinks he is a gentleman." 

"No, it really is almost unendurable," Angela sighed. "We 
must do something or we'll go out of our minds." 

"Yes, something, anything, needlework, cards," Eve pro- 
posed. 

"No, lotto is better," the pug-nosed blonde said. "You 
have to watch your board every minute; that puts other 
things out of your mind." 

Some of them sat around the table and distributed lotto 
cards. But others were too nervous to concentrate on any- 
thing and preferred discussing with one another what the 
future would bring. 

The Silver Hall, which seemed so enormous because of 
the reflecting mirrors, was in reality only a rather large par- 
lor, and so I could catch some of the more private talk, espe- 
cially when I took over Waldo's observation post the chap 
was restless and kept finding reasons for going out. His seat 
was only a few steps away from the table where the "cau- 
tious" group was playing lotto. 

Myra had just brought tea and crackers from the kitchen. 
They all sipped and nibbled and seemed only too ready to 
interrupt their not very compelling game. 

"Look over there," I heard Griselda say to Myra. She 
pointed to the budget director, who had withdrawn into a 
corner with Lolo. "Doesn't Lolo's face look rather flushed?" 



2*1 A (The Silver Bacchanal 

"Yes, now that you mention it, it's perfectly plain. You 
don't think she may be coming down with something, too?" 

"Heaven knows," Griselda replied. "But what other rea- 
son could there be?" 

"Don't say it." 

"What shouldn't she say?" Madam President asked. 

"Oh, it's just about Lolo. You can't help noticing." 

Everyone's gaze turned toward the two in the corner. 

"Odd that the budget director hasn't noticed how fiery 
red she is. He isn't color-blind, after all." 

"But a bureaucrat always wears blinkers." 

"Someone ought to warn him," Mrs. Moffet said. 

"We have no obligation to, and it wouldn't be nice to 
disturb them." 

"What do you mean, wouldn't be nice?" Eve said. "It's 
only right to warn a person who is running such a risk. If 
you're too timid, I'll go over and tell him. It doesn't embar- 
rass me." 

"You might simply say that I wished to speak with him 
for a moment," Madam President suggested. 

Eve was already on her way, and in a moment came 
back with the budget director. 

"I hope you won't take it amiss, our disturbing you, but 
we are old friends, after all, and I must warn you to be care- 
ful about Lolo. You must have noticed yourself how un- 
naturally flushed her face is." 

"Oh, I'm deeply grateful to you I must say, it did puzzle 
me, and now that you mention it " warily, the budget 
director threw a glance at Lolo, his goatee quivering "she 
really is red as a poppy." 

"We simply cannot be too careful," Madam President 
remarked, and with trembling fingers brought her teacup 
to her lips. As she did so she was taken by a sudden, violent 
fit of choking. She had to set down the cup and fight for 
breath. 



x The Mirror Hell) 

Myra had jumped up and was about to pat her on the back. 

"You'd better not/' Eve said, plucking Myra's sleeve. 
"Come away; you never know. I'm going, at any rate." She 
rose. 

Myra nudged Mrs. Moffet, and she the history professor. 
One after the other, all stood up. 

"Malva, for Heaven's sake, don't sit here like a log. You 
must take care for two!" Angela tugged her along. . 

"Where are you all going?" Madam President asked, still 
choking. "It simply went down the wrong way." 

"As you remarked before, we cannot be too careful," Eve 
retorted. 

"Nonsense, you can't think that I ... I'm coming with 
you," she rose and attempted to join them. 

"Keep your distance!" Mrs. Moffet fended her off. They 
all backed away from her. 

"Now you have a dose of your own medicine," Rogemund 
called to her maliciously. 

"Serves her right!" Ludmilla chortled. 

"Look at the way she is shaking," Eve said, pointing to 
Madam President, who was in the throes of another choking 
fit. 

"A lucky thing we took Malva safely away in time," An- 
gela commented. 

I felt sorry for Gertrude, seeing her standing all alone in 
the middle of the room, and I started toward her to comfort 
her. 

"Don't you come near me, Ember," she screamed. "You 
touched Rappaport." 

All right, if that was how she wanted it. I sat down again. 

So it went, on and on. Sooner or later, everyone came 
under suspicion. 

"Did you notice how strangely Lizzie sighed when she 
got up from table? If that doesn't mean something, my 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

name is Pumpernickel and not Humperdinger." 

"There's something peculiar about the way Mr. Dingda 
is hopping about. I've never seen him quite that jumpy 
before." 

"Look at the way Griselda is staring into space. Goggling, 
rather. It's really uncanny. As though her eyeballs were go- 
ing to fall out." 

"It gives me the shivers just to look at her." 

"Did you say you are shivering?" 

"No, it's nothing at all." 

"Oh, well, I'd rather sit somewhere else." 

"Just see how the budget director is sweating. It's running 
in torrents down his brow and the back of his neck." 

"Positively abnormal." 

"Did you notice the way Ginzele suddenly pinched his 
thigh and made a face? I have known him for thirty years 
it's simply not like him. It would not surprise me if he were 
the next . . ." 

"Malva isn't feeling well. Listen to her moaning. She 
seems to be having some kind of cramps. We must look to 
her." Angela started toward Malva. 

"Don't be overhasty, wait a bit." The others restrained 
her. 

"In her condition that isn't unusual," Angela protested. 

"Not unusual? I have brought two children into the 
world; I know what pregnancy is. Moaning and doubling 
up like that that isn't how a woman behaves, not even in 
labor. And she's a long way from that, after all. No, there 
must be another cause." 

"Don't you see it?" "Doesn't it strike you?" "What is the 
matter with him . . . with her?" "Careful, careful! We can- 
not be too careful." Each cautioned and denounced the 
other, and the slightest deviation from normal in appear- 
ance or gesture was read as a sign of danger. Pallor and 
floridity, a lagging or a rapid gait, apathy or nervous excite- 



x The Mirror Hell) 

ment, motion or stillness everything seemed equally sus- 
pect. There was a constant beckoning, exchange of secret 
signs, whispering, moving away, warning, warning. After 
all, anyone here in the room might be a carrier of the dis- 
ease; anyone might be the next victim. 

The danger of infection sat wherever they sat, jumped up 
when they jumped up, gushed from their every movement 
and gesture, emanated from their clothes, remained cling- 
ing to their chairs, to the objects they touched. The disease 
lurked in every one of them, ready to leap, to fall upon any- 
one at any moment. 

Instead of the kindly inquiries as to each other's welfare, 
there was now nothing but catch questions intended to trip 
up and expose. The affectionate looks they had been in the 
habit of exchanging had become suspicious, sidewise squint- 
ing. Instead of the former sociability there was now only 
startled retreating, turning away, avoidance, segregation. 
Frantic fear of one another was the only remaining bond 
between them. For could not mere proximity, the lightest 
touch, a single breath, transfer the dreaded disease? 

Then, as though the cup of horror had not yet been filled 
to the brim, a shrill cry of alarm pierced the air. With the 
cry of a sparrow whom a hawk has caught in its talons and 
will tear to pieces, Mr. Dingda shrieked, "It's got me! Help! 
I don't want to, I don't want to die!" And his arms flailed 
the air like the wings of a desperate bird. 

He began to sway, was about to fall, but I caught him in 
time and hauled him over to the sofa, from which Malva 
had sprung up in alarm. 

I had already seen so many cases of the infection that I 
was only too familiar with the symptoms and could recog- 
nize at a glance whether or not it was the real thing. As 
Mr. Dingda lay there, I studied him closely, but the telltale 
signs were singularly absent. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

"Mr. Dingda," I spoke quietly to him, "don't be afraid. I 
assure you there is nothing wrong with you. I give you my 
word. It's just your imagination. Get a grip on yourself 
and you'll soon feel better." 

I meant well by the man, but I began to be annoyed 
when he disregarded my assurances and persisted with his 
senseless wail: "It's got me, I don't want to die," throwing 
the whole place into a panic. After all, here was an individ- 
ual who by profession ought to have accepted the inevitable 
without making a fuss about it. He of all people ought to be 
ashamed to behave like this. It really was going too far. 
Finally I lost patience with him. 

"Mr. Dingda," I roared, "will you pull yourself together 
and stop this hysterical nonsense! There's nothing wrong 
with you! Get to your feet at once! Lieutenant Waldo, help 
me out on this." I appealed to Waldo, who after all was in 
charge. 

"Will you shut your beak at once!" Waldo commanded 
Dingda. "That is an order. Shut up, I say, or I'll have to 
take military action." 

But that hypochondriac of an undertaker was all wound 
up now and would not unwind. 

"Ember, Kalabas, I don't want that bird in the room an- 
other moment. Take him to the pantry and lock him in un- 
til Dr. Kapra comes. You'd better go for the doctor at once," 
Waldo went on, turning to Kalabas. "I don't want anything 
to do with these crazy civilians." 

I took Dingda by the shoulders, Kalabas lifted his feet, 
and we carried him to the pantry. 

Luckily the doctor was in one of the nearby houses, and 
was over in a shake. My diagnosis had been right, of course. 
Dr. Kapra took one look at the patient and stated, "A hypo- 
chondriac; mere hysteria." He drew me aside. "It's not alto- 
gether out of the question that the fellow's malingering; he's 
fed up with the Silver Hall and might have wanted a pretext 



x The Mirror Hell) 

for getting out of it. Stuff two of these yellow pills down his 
gullet and leave him here until he sleeps it off." He sat down 
to study the sick list. "In the future you'd do best to ignore 
such frauds/' he counseled me. 

When I re-entered the Silver Hall I found everything in 
total upheaval. The disease itself could not have been more 
contagious than the hysteria Dingda's screams had unleashed. 

"I'm about fed up with this," the lieutenant confided to 
me through the hubbub. "I tell you, this crazy stuff isn't in 
my line. I'm an infantry officer, after all. If you ask me, this 
is a setup for the medics." 

He was surely right about that. 

Mr. Humperdinger complained of ominous rumbles in 
his stomach, Professor Drish of intolerable pains in the back 
of his head, Mrs. Moffet of a chill that turned her backbone 
to ice, the lard dealer of rippling convulsions in the calves 
of his legs, Malva of giddiness and nausea, and Madam Presi- 
dent of stomach cramps, chills, pains in the calves, nausea 
and giddiness all at once, and on top of all that of a choking 
sensation in the throat. "Help, help! It has me!" she 
screamed, and with a wild gesture ripped open her high- 
necked dress and gripped at her breasts as though she were 
about to tear them from her body. No sooner had Kalabas 
and I sped over to her when Malva, who had not dared to go 
back to the sofa on which Mr. Dingda had lain, sank down 
in the middle of the room, while Mrs. Dolbin simultane- 
ously fainted away. 

"Mrs. Dolbin " I shook her until she opened her eyes 
"you must pull yourself together. Think of Timmy and 
Linda!" Then I bent over Madam President and spoke ur- 
gently to her. "Now really, you cannot give way like this. 
Think of your Bertram. Who will take care of his diet?" And 
then to Malva: "Consider Philip, consider your baby. As a 
mother-to-be, you must be strong!" 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

It did not help worth a damn. Timmy, Linda, Bertram, 
big and little Philip the names were nothing more to them 
than empty sounds. Their sole reaction, their only thought, 
was: "My stomach feels funny/' "My calves." "I'm dizzy, 
nauseated." "I'm suffocating." "Help!" "Help!" 

Madam President put on a demonstration of her symptoms 
befitting her high rank in a cultural association. She acted 
in grand style and so convincingly that I suddenly began to 
feel qualms. What if it were the real thing? What if she 
should die under my hands? I hustled her into the pantry. 

Luckily Dr. Kapra was still there. He examined her con- 
scientiously, then he asked Kalabas to hand him a jug of 
water. Whereupon he poured the entire contents of the jug 
over her face. 

"Hey!" she shrieked, with full use of her respiratory ap- 
paratus. 

"There's not a thing wrong with you," he said harshly. 
"And I advise you not to put on another such act. Kalabas, 
stuff three of those triangular yellow ones you know the 
kind down her gullet and put her beside Dingda to sleep 
it off. And you, you credulous ass," he went on, turning to 
me, "I thought you knew better than to fall for such phony 
stuff." 

All right, all right, Doctor, I thought to myself, you fell 
for it too for a while. But I only bit my lips and said noth- 
ing. 

"Don't bother me again with such trivia. I have more 
important things to do. Besides which I am an army doctor. 
I know how to deal with battle fatigue and shell shock, but 
hypochondriacal civilians and hysterical females are outside 
my sphere. You'll have to manage by yourself." 

I must say I had had even less practice than he. But some- 
times the amateur succeeds where the professional fails. 
Just because I was a total ignoramus in this field, a flash of 
inspiration told me what to do. 



x The Mirror Hell) 

"No cause for concern/' I called out as I entered the Silver 
Hall. "There is nothing wrong with Madam President." 

"I suppose she's just sleeping it off in the pantry/' Eve 
taunted. "She's done for, and you're trying to conceal it 
from us." 

"Done for, done for," the whole room howled hysterically. 
And a moment later Ludmilla lay on the floor, eyes rolling, 
skirts over her head, stout legs thrashing, while from her 
lusty lungs issued the roar of an animal being dragged to 
the slaughterhouse. 

At the sight of this whore behaving like a madwoman, 
there flashed to my mind a childhood memory: a morning 
when I did not want to go to school, pretended to be sick, 
and lay on the floor like Ludmilla, kicking violently until my 
father gave me a resounding whack that cured me in a 
trice. 

Following the sudden inspiration, I did as my father had 
done, and Ludmilla was instantly silenced. It proved un- 
necessary for me to smack the rest of them, one after the 
other. That single example did the trick. 

Naturally, the slap was no miracle cure. I had quelled 
their frightful noise, but the saving on the ears had to be paid 
for by the eyes. The terror choked back in their throats 
avenged itself by breaking forth with diabolic power upon 
their faces; it showed in their looks, their expressions, shaped 
all their gestures, was manifest in their every motion. Like a 
carnival of terror faces contorted into grotesque masks, 
hands convulsively clenched into fists they staggered about, 
trying to escape the clutches of the dreaded disease. At times 
they would suddenly halt, look desperately about for a hid- 
ing place, crawl under the furniture, roll up into a ball, 
hopeful that their diminished surface would prove too small 
a target for the stab of contagion. Now they would freeze 
into rigidity, now leap up and run again, more and more 



Silver 

madly, faster and faster, about the room. Even their clothes, 
as though sharing their fright, followed their every move- 
ment, sagged when they crouched, flew up when they 
leaped, crushed together when they huddled. 

To have such insane fear not only inside their bodies, 
plucking at their skins, but also to see it constantly reflected, 
the dread-distorted faces, the terror-stricken glances, the con- 
stant milling about of all the others and of themselves 
to see this multiplied a thousand times in all the mirrors, to 
be inhabited by horror and at the same time to be compelled 
to observe its phantom prowling in the very walls it was 
more than flesh and blood could bear. 

"Ember," Lieutenant Waldo said softly, "as you know, I've 
had three years of service in combat areas. There isn't much 
I'm not hardened to. But not in the bloodiest battle have I 
ever seen anything so horrible as these civilians. I simply 
can't take this much longer." 

I nodded, for I felt much the same. My duties having 
been what they were, I was familiar enough with horrors, 
God knows. And yet I had to admit that on no battlefield 
which I had scoured for the miserable remains of fighting 
men had I ever seen anything so gruesome as this. 

By and by I noticed one after the other lower his head and 
gaze at the floor. Several of them covered their eyes with 
their hands, others squeezed their eyes shut, in order to es- 
cape the reflections in the mirrors. At times an involuntary 
twitch passed across their faces, or a reflex movement jerked 
through their limbs, until gradually even these feeble signs 
of life ceased. 

"Ember, I'm sick to my stomach," Waldo remarked. 
"Take charge for a while. When I'm back, you can leave to 
take a breather." 

I was just as nauseated as he. But as a subordinate there 
was nothing for me to do but say, "Certainly, sir." Battle- 
field or bordello the army is the army, which means that 



x The Mirror Hell) 

the underling has to swallow whatever his superior cannot 
chew. 

Lieutenant Waldo rose, swayed on his feet, and dropped 
back into his chair. His eyes closed, and almost instantly he 
began to snore. 

Meanwhile, I guarded the hall. Unmoving, they all sat or 
leaned against furniture, heads low; the rest of their bodies 
were in a stupor, more immobile than the dead who rotted 
all day long on the field of honor and gave no sign of ever 
having been alive. 

Fate must have had it in for me. How else explain the 
malice of its ways? In good times, when things were so jolly 
in the Silver Hall and I wanted nothing more than to be able 
to stay there undisturbed, when I would be winning in a card 
game, or listening to a fascinating conversation, or just about 
to hear the punch line of a joke at just such junctures a 
medical aide was sure to come rushing into the room to 
fetch me to one of the annexes where one or two corpses 
were awaiting my ministrations. But now, when the Silver 
Hall had been converted into an inferno and my only desire 
was to escape it, not a single one of the victims of the dis- 
ease in the annexes took the notion to say farewell to life 
and give me a respite from the Silver Hall. 

After a while even a peasant lout like Kalabas, who had 
nerves of steel, could no longer endure it in the damna- 
ble place. "You know, Ember, I'm responsible for those two 
in the pantry," he said. "Don't you think it's high time I 
looked in on them? I mean, you know, if they should wake 
up and start fooling around with the medical stores, Dr. 
Kapra would give me the dickens. If you need me, just call." 

Grimbam, the other medical aide, also found a pretext for 
clearing out. It suddenly occurred to him that he ought to 
clean up the sickrooms so that everything would be in order 
when Dr. Kapra came around for inspection. 

"Go on, go ahead," I said wearily. As soon as the door 



184 ( Tht Si/ver Bacchanal 

closed behind them I undid my shirt collar, took off my 
shoes and loosened my belt. 

Even though I was physically more comfortable, I began 
feeling uneasy after a while. I became aware of a hypnotic 
spell emanating from the endlessly reflected motionless 
bodies and closed eyes. It began to overpower me. Since I 
was assigned to guard the hall as Waldo's deputy, I did not 
dare succumb. But the hypnotic spell was a mighty one, and 
my strength of mind was not what it had once been. Sud- 
denly I noticed the distance between myself and the effigies 
in the room shrinking before my eyes, obliterating all dis- 
tinctions between Me and Them. The numbed figures were 
now sitting and standing right up close to me, along with 
the chairs, tables, whatnot ornaments, corners, and walls of 
mirrors. The whole hall was closing in on me, threatening 
to crush me. My desperate efforts to fend it off were in vain. 
I could no longer stir. An invincible force held me down, as 
though the weight of all those rigid bodies, of the furniture, 
the mirrors, the weight of the entire room, was trained upon 
me. When I forced my drooping eyelids open again and 
looked around me, the dividing line between spatial reality 
and mirrored reflections had vanished. The people and ob- 
jects in the room had left their fixed spot in space; the reflec- 
tions had stepped out of the mirrors; the realities and ap- 
pearances had merged. The physical Humperdinger had 
become one with the thousand Humpcrdingers in the mir- 
rors, Eve and the professor with the mirrored Eves and 
mirrored professors; each of them and all the things in the 
room were identical with their mirror images, so that it was 
utterly impossible to tell which was alive and solid, and 
which was mere reflection. 

Almost at the same moment I realized with alarm that all 
firm outlines were dissolving, and I could no longer distin- 
guish one thing or one person from another. Everything 
seemed to pass through and into something else. The lard 



x The Mirror Hell) o 

dealer's moonlike face was one with Ludmilla's backside, 
Tamara's loose black hair with Humperdinger's neckless 
head, the professor's scholarly face with the table-top. And 
this ghastly mishmash began to boil and churn in a circle, 
faster and faster, until at last it stopped abruptly, trans- 
formed into a gigantic eye fixed squarely upon me. It was 
the weird eye of a monstrously swollen dead rat. What 
happened after that I could no longer perceive, for time it- 
self came to a standstill in that motionless rat's eye. 

Perhaps I would have remained in this timeless trance 
until Judgment Day if I had not been wrenched back to 
reality by a sudden whimpering, a whimpering that for all 
its muffled character was as imperative as reveille in the 
training camp at Arak, and as rousing as the trumpets of 
Doomsday calling saints and sinners to the judgment seat. 
I opened my eyes, and my heart skipped a beat as I saw 
Lieutenant Waldo, sitting beside me, shaken by convul- 
sions. 

I knew at a glance that Waldo was really in a bad way. A 
man like him, infantry lieutenant from head to toe, possessor 
of a bronze medal for heroism, was not given to self-pity or 
hypochondriacal funks. I snapped out of my daze immedi- 
ately, jumped to my feet and called Kalabas and Grimbam. 
I ordered them to bring a stretcher so that we could carry 
Waldo up to the emergency room. 

Perhaps it takes a soldier, and in particular a private, to 
grasp the thoughts that shot through my mind while I 
waited for the stretcher. There was, for example, the ques- 
tion: If the infection had the temerity to attack the com- 
mander of the Silver Hall, it might equally well leap upon 
Mannsteufel, the commander in chief of the Eastern Sector, 
and in the end fall upon all the authorities, right up to the 
chief of the General Staff. Why not, after all? And if 
that were to be the case, what was the sense of the whole 
war? 

Waldo's groans had startled others besides myself out of 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

their numbed state. In fact, eyes had promptly popped 
open. Yet they remained frozen in their postures, so that 
their terror over Waldo's breakdown flashed and raged only 
in their goggling eyes. That the infection should have struck 
the commander of the Silver Hall, who had stood outside 
the circumference of their fear, and whom in their most 
hysterical mood they had not even dreamed of suspecting 
this intensified their terror beyond all measure. Any moment 
the frenzy could find violent expression. I preferred not to 
think of what might happen then. 

But I had little time for such conjectures. Above all I 
had to get Waldo to the emergency room so long as there 
was a spark of hope for him. 

"Hurry, hurry," I urged Kalabas and Grimbam when they 
returned with the stretcher. But even such dolts as those 
two were so panic-stricken by the sight of their commander 
writhing on the floor that they stood dazed until I barked 
at them: "Damn it all, behave like soldiers. We haven't any 
time to lose." They finally acquiesced and lifted Waldo onto 
the stretcher. 

"Come, help me carry the lieutenant upstairs," I ordered 
Grimbam, and instructed Kalabas to take over as guard of 
the Silver Hall during my absence. 

"Yes, sir; very well, sir," he snapped with military pre- 
cision but his goggle-eyed look betrayed that his wits were 
wandering. 

With Grimbam's help I lifted the stretcher and off we 
tramped. As soon as we reached the emergency room, I 
dispatched Grimbam to fetch Dr. Kapra and report the mat- 
ter to Commander Mannsteufel. 

Although Waldo was badly off, I was at first relieved, after 
the inferno in the Mirror Room, to be dealing with a single 
and unreflected individual. 

I summoned up all my knowledge as a trained medical 
aide, shifted him from his right to his left side, applied al- 



x The Mirror Hell) jO^ 

ternate hot and cold compresses to his abdomen, neck and 
chest, and gently massaged his forehead and limbs. At last 
I thought I had him quieted and lulled to sleep. But almost 
immediately afterward the convulsions began again, worse 
than before. 

His fever rose so high that he threw off the blanket and 
all his clothes; a moment later he was shaken by such chills 
that the entire bedstead trembled. He rolled himself up in 
a cocoon of sheets and blankets, buried his head in the pil- 
lows, then suddenly reared up, leaped out of bed and stag- 
gered toward the door, dragging the blanket after him like a 
train. I had to exert all my strength to get him back into 
bed. And still Dr. Kapra did not come. Even that idiot 
Grimbam, whom I had sent out for the doctor, had not yet 
returned. 

I recalled that Dr. Kapra kept a supply of syringes and 
drugs in the closet in the emergency room. Since my train- 
ing course in Arak I had not handled a syringe. But since all 
else was failing and Waldo's pangs were assuming more and 
more violent forms, there was nothing for me to do but 
try. My hand trembled. I had to apply the needle two, three 
times, before it punctured the skin and penetrated into 
the flesh of his arm. I waited for the sedative to take effect. 
But I must have done something wrong, for his pain seemed 
as furious as ever. And still I could not and would not give 
up. 

The more desperate and hopeless all my efforts were, the 
more stubbornly I continued to wrestle with the pain, strug- 
gled to keep Waldo alive at least until Dr. Kapra appeared. I 
worked with a furious obstinacy. As though the pain that 
racked Waldo were a demon and I a medicine man who had 
to exorcise it, I began pleading with it, exhorting it and 
conjuring. And when the demon still would not give up 
his prey, I resorted to wrathful threats to drive it from the 
sick man's defenseless body. I was engaged in hand-to-hand 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

combat with the demon. But the demon proved stronger 
than I. Waldo groaned once more; then his voice failed, his 
breath came in shorter and feebler gasps from his bluish lips, 
and his glazed eyes no longer knew me. 

It was of course my Christian duty to call Father Jacopo 
at once, but I felt faint and had to sit down to catch my 
breath. At once a leaden weariness overcame me. I was on 
the point of dozing off when I heard a strange din, com- 
pounded of phonograph music, yowls and thumps, like the 
noise during our first night at the Silver Hall. At first I 
thought it must all be a hallucination due to my strained 
nerves. But when the racket continued undiminished, I 
rose, opened the door a crack and listened down the corri- 
dor. No, there was no doubt about it, the thumping and 
shouting came from the Silver Hall. What the devil was go- 
ing on there now? I rushed down the stairs three at a time. 



XI 

The Silver Bacchanal 



w, 



hen I opened the door of the Silver Hall, the 
sight took my breath away. The inmates whom I had left a 
short while before in a state of frozen dread, the ladies, 
gentlemen and whores, even Madam President and Dingda 
from the pantry, as well as the guards from the front door, 
were reeling about the room in drunken revelry, guzzling 
straight from uncorked bottles and roaring in unison with 
the phonograph: "Augustin, Augustin, everything's gone!" 

In vain I looked around for Kalabas, to whom I had as- 
signed the supervision of the hall. In vain I shouted at 
the top of my voice: "Kalabas! Kalabas!" My shouts went un- 
heard in the tumult. Then the door of the pantry opened 
and I saw Kalabas, assisted by Grimbam whom I had sent 
for the doctor, carrying out a fresh case of champagne. 

"Hurray!" The others rushed to snatch themselves a 
bottle. 

I saw the whole story in a flash. They had taken advantage 
of my absence to break into the wine cellar, plunder Ma- 
dame Renoir's stores, and were now drowning in champagne 
the terror inspired by Waldo's collapse. 

Shaking with indignation, I elbowed my way through the 
throng and reached Kalabas. "Have you gone mad?" I 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

roared at him. "And you, you miserable scoundrel!" I snarled 
at Grimbam. "You wait, you'll pay for this. Kalabas, I order 
you to . . ." 

Instead of replying, Kalabas aimed the champagne bottle 
he had just uncorked in my direction and let the bubbling 
champagne spray right into my face. As I was wiping the 
stuff out of my eyes with my coat sleeve, he addressed me 
with cheerful impudence: "Don't be a drip, Ember. Join 
us! We live only once, after all." At the same time I saw him 
motion to several of the girls standing near. At once they 
fell upon me, grasped my arms, pinned them behind my 
back and tipped my head back. Two strong hands forced 
my mouth open, and then Eve was bending over me, hold- 
ing a full bottle in her hand. She poured the champagne 
down my gullet. Then, before I knew what was happening, 
she kissed me passionately on the mouth. 

"Oh, I'm crazy about you," she murmured thickly. "No 
matter who comes between us, you are mine and I am 
yours." 

"Say, leave a little of him for me, selfish!" Angela inter- 
posed, stepping between us. 

"All right, but hurry up," Eve giggled drunkenly. 

"Today he won't run out on me," Angela panted, hug- 
ging me. 

"And what about me? I want some of him too." Violetta 
pushed her aside, threw her arms around me and whispered 
into my ear: "This time we'll go all the way." 

"Enough of that, you slut; after all I have priority," Lud- 
milla cried out, and pushing Violetta aside she thrust her 
stout thigh between my legs and pressed her bountiful 
bosom against my lips. "Remember how we were inter- 
rupted, baby? Just at the moment . . . Oh, my only sweet- 
heart!" she whispered into my ear. 

"It isn't fair to get me worked up and then not give me 
a chance," the snub-nosed blonde protested. "I want some 



xi The Silver Bacchanal ) IQT 

of him too!" She threw herself upon me from behind. 

"And what about our poor Malva," Tamara intervened. 
"Just look at her. Do you want to let her pine away? Don't 
you have a heart? Even a woman who's expecting has her 
physical desires." Whereupon she thrust Malva, who blushed 
to the tips of her ears and hung back a little, into my arms. 
"Go on, don't be a prude," Tamara urged her. "You can't 
lose your innocence again. Just close your eyes and imagine 
that he's Philip." 

I drew away to show proper respect for a pregnant woman. 
But Malva thrust herself lasciviously at me. Shudders min- 
gled with lust ran down my spine, and when she kissed me 
and bit my tongue, the devil himself took hold of me. 

When the others' turns came, I no longer knew which one 
was squeezing me; they thrust themselves upon me alter- 
nately, kissed me one, two, three at a time, all at once. 

"Father in Heaven, how can you abandon yourself this 
way," the still, small voice whispered to me, sounding above 
the crazy din. "Think of Waldo . . . poor man in his last 
gasps ... his salvation . . . Extreme Unction. Fetch Fa- 
ther Jacopo!" 

I tried to free myself, but there were too many of them; 
they had me in their clutches. They pulled and tugged 
fiercely at me, and finally pushed me over to the sofa where 
Madam President was lying, stony drunk. 

"Gertrude, make room, do you hear?" Ludmilla shouted, 
trying to push her off the sofa. 

"Oh, let her have a bit of him, too," Eve said magnani- 
mously. "She can stay in the corner and cuddle his feet." 

They pressed me down on the sofa and fell upon me. 
"Hurray, now he can't escape us," they cheered. 

"Now, kids, let's share him like sisters," Eve proposed. 
"Agreed? First me, then you, then you. He belongs to all of 
us." 

It was quite beyond me why they were so set on me. 



( The Silver 

Neither my mug nor my physique was anything special. 
There was Kalabas, that bounder, who was a whole lot brawn- 
ier than I was. But who can account for women's tastes? 
Maybe I wasn't so bad after all. And if they wanted it that 
way, why should I object! Might as well enjoy it. After all, 
what could I do when the whole pack of them was squirming 
all over me, and the lustful twitching of their bodies began 
to twitch in my own limbs, the hot blood racing through 
their veins began to pulse in my own voluptuous sensations 
that did not come the way of a gravedigger every day in 
the year. 

I wonder how I eventually summoned enough strength to 
free myself from that serpents' nest of lustful bodies. Man 
is unpredictable, that's all there is to it, and it remains a 
mystery how a born coward suddenly turns into a hero. I 
writhed my way through them, leaped to my feet and reso- 
lutely made for the door; they took after me, caught up with 
me, clung to me and tried to pull me back. Vigorously, I 
pushed them away and cried out in a steely voice not nor- 
mally my own: "If you do not desist at once, I will fetch 
Commander Mannsteufel. He will restore order here!" 

When they realized that I was in earnest, they flew into 
a rage. "You just dare, you'll regret it!" they threatened. 

I ignored them; undeterred, I pushed on toward the door. 

"Pansy, pansy!" Eve called out contemptuously, and at 
once the others took up the cry. "Pansy, pansy!" they 
shouted in a scornful chorus. 

I already had my hand on the doorknob when I heard a 
deafening BOOM, followed by a tinkling cascade of sound. 
Turning, I froze into a pillar of salt. To my speechless hor- 
ror I beheld a tremendous hole in the right-hand mirror- 
wall, and on the floor in front of it a heap of shards and 
splinters of glass. Before I could even begin to look for the 
culprit, Eve's drunken voice rang out: "Good aim! Go on, 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) 

go on'/' Whereupon a second and a third bottle, then a 
whole barrage of empties flew one after the other across 
the room and smashed into the wall of mirrors. 

Their unleashed concupiscence, suddenly transformed 
into senseless lust for destruction, turned all its violence 
upon the wall of mirrors. A veritable bombardment of 
bottles began, as though the men and women in the hall 
regarded their mirror images as an enemy army which they 
would exterminate to the last man in one decisive battle, 
together with everything surrounding them in the mirror. 
They were determined to smash the whole mirror camp to 
bits, level it to the ground. Their fighting rage increased 
with every new bottle pitched, became a furor which I 
stood powerless to check. 

Boom-boom-boom, the bottles crashed here and there, 
striking the right side and the left side, the top and the bot- 
tom tiers of the mirrors, here smashing a mirrored face, there 
cutting off a head, converting bosoms into craters, shattering 
loins, tearing limb from limb, splitting bodies into two un- 
equal halves, leaving only the arm of the sofa, only the top 
of the table, only the legs of the easy chairs. 

Fragmented, beheaded, bisected, drawn and quartered 
pieces of whores, townsfolk and soldiers scurried like phan- 
toms among morsels of furniture in the mirrors. And while 
Eve her face a blank patch in a mirror uttering fierce 
cries like a maenad, spurred the rest of the party to further 
feats of destruction, Rogemund's arm, severed from its 
body, wound up for another throw; Madam President, 
juggling a bottle, reeled without legs through the mirrored 
wastland; headless Humperdinger pushed a thousand-splin- 
tered Ginzele to one side in order to pinch a breastless Lud- 
milla crudely in her reflected behind. Alongside them the 
gray lady's armless hand compassionately upheld the cracked 
body of a swaying Mrs. Dolbin; the upper half of under- 
taker Dingda hopped merrily toward a bellyless Malva who, 



XQA (The Silver Bacchanal 

dead-drunk, closing one eye, was about to cast a neckless 
bottle against the wall of mirrors. Dingda snatched the bot- 
tle from her and hurled it with excellent aim against a mir- 
ror, striking the history professor's forehead and smashing his 
mirrored pate into a thousand pencils of glass. At the 
same moment portions of the budget director fell with 
savage lust upon the shattered reflection of Lolo, obscenely 
rooting about in the fragments of her anatomy, while the 
lard dealer's shining countenance, liberated from his body, 
hung grinning above them like a full moon afloat in the 
sky. I caught a glimpse of myself like the shaft of a broken 
pillar, nose and belt spanned only by a jagged notch of 
mirror. Bang a bottle struck Ludmilla's mirrored buttocks, 
simultaneously demolishing Humperdinger's fingers which 
were buried in them. Whereupon all the bodies in the hall 
broke into roars of laughter. 

Meanwhile Kalabas and Grimbam had brought up fresh 
ammunition, in the shape of a new case of champagne bot- 
tles. Roaring "Hurray," Ludmilla, followed by a yowling 
mob, bore down upon them. They seized the bottles, 
drained them dry, and resumed the bombardment with re- 
newed verve. Lust and destruction, destruction and lust, 
alternately spurred each other on to a more and more 
savage frenzy, until nothing at all was left of the mirror 
wall on the right. 

Now they turned to the other mirrors, and on all sides 
the glass crashed and tinkled to the floor. When at length 
the last remnants of the enemy army in the mirrors had 
been annihilated, they raised a cry of victory such as could 
scarcely have had its like in all the history professor's annals 
of war. 

The next phase unfolded with fantastic swiftness. Within 
a few seconds the sofa, tables and chairs had been pushed 
to the sides, and in the middle of the hall, surrounded by 
shards of glass, the victorious party fell into one another's 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) I OS 

arms in mindless ecstasy, mingled, kissed, broke up into 
couples and began dancing to the blare of "One Enchanted 
Evening" from the phonograph. The dance became more 
and more passionate; swaying, stamping bodies pressed to- 
gether; lips, breasts, thighs merged into one bacchantic mad- 
ness of the flesh, until the couples fell down and, uttering 
lewd cries, rolled and writhed about on the floor. 

Humperdinger and Ludmilla, the lard dealer, the profes- 
sor, Madam President, Kalabas, Grimbam and Angela, the 
budget director, Dingda, the snub-nosed blonde, Roge- 
mund, Mr. Ginzele, Lolo, Myra, Tamara, Violetta, the 
girls and the guards and O woe and shame, shame and 
woe for the honor of motherhood, maidenhood, woman- 
hood Mrs. Dolbin, Malva and the gray lady were among 
them, in drunken abandonment, enlaced in a tangle of 
shamelessly entwined bodies, a knot of sheer eroticism, 
rolling about on the parquet floor. 

I am not a prude, not by a long shot; nevertheless I be- 
came dizzy and nauseated at the sight. I did not want to go 
on living; I wished the infection would take hold of me on 
the spot. "Lord, take me, take me!" I prayed. "Spare me the 
sight of these last days of mankind, this Fall of man, this 
final damnation, this hideous Last Judgment here on earth!" 

The fear and shame which had gripped me at my first in- 
timations of the dark mystery of sex the fear and shame 
rose in me, stinging hot; a boyish sob burst from my 
throat, and with the helpless gesture of a small boy who 
could not bear to look, I buried my face in my hands. 

It was clear that this could not go on, and that I must do 
something. But what? What could I, Adam Ember, one 
sober man in the midst of this sex-crazed mob, do by my 
lone self? 

What I ought to have done, of course, was to inform 
Commander Mannsteufel at once, but I could not leave the 



f The Silver Bacchanal 

hall unsupervised, especially since I had not the slightest 
idea in which of the newly annexed houses the commander 
might be found. To be truthful I was also scared to report 
to Mannsteufel. For of course he would blame me for every- 
thing and vent all his rage against me. 

I debated back and forth: go, no, not go; stay, no, not 
stay. The phonograph was blaring "Onward, Christian Sol- 
diers." The devil only knows what such a record was doing 
in a bordello. I wanted at least to shut the raucous thing off, 
but did not have the strength to go over to the machine. I 
had no strength left for anything. As limp as a jellyfish, I 
stood with my back leaning against the door. Suddenly 
someone outside began wrenching wildly at the knob and 
hammering on the panels. I turned and tried to open it, but 
could not. Now someone outside seemed to be lunging a 
shoulder against it. Here was something to do, and my 
energy returned. I pulled with all my might against the 
door until it flew open. 

Madame Renoir, unkempt and in her nightgown, evi- 
dently having just tumbled out of bed, was wrestling with 
the waiter, who was trying to prevent her from entering. I 
sprang to his aid, blocked her way and attempted to force 
her back. But she kicked her high-heeled mule so savagely 
ftgainst my shin that I staggered aside, leaving the way clear 
to her. 

Madame Renoir, who in the normal course of events 
would present you with a bill for a broken goblet, now 
stood utterly mute on the threshold. Overwhelmed by the 
ruin which met her eyes and the spectacle of her girls ignor- 
ing all the time-honored rules of the establishment and 
shamelessly carrying on with the townsmen and the soldiers, 
she emerged from her world of delusion. 

"My mirrors, my fixtures, my nice little business! Twenty- 
five years of hard work destroyed, gone," she stated in an 
oddly matter-of-fact tone. "Yes, Karl, gone," she said, turn- 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) 707 

ing to the faithful waiter, who could no longer master him- 
self and broke into sobs. 

"Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think!" the phono- 
graph blared. 

"Karl," she ordered the waiter, "go and turn that off. I 
can't stand the racket." 

'Til do it," I offered. But there was no time. For as I 
started forward I saw her beginning to sway; she gasped for 
breath, clutched convulsively at her heart, and before I could 
catch her, keeled over into a heap of splintered glass. With 
the waiter's aid I lifted her up again. Her face was lacerated 
and streaming with blood. We carried her, just as she was, I 
at her head and the waiter at her feet, into the corridor, in- 
tending to take her to room zero. 

In the corridor whom should we meet but Barnabas. 
"You're still a private-room case," I snarled at him. "Back to 
your bed at once." 

"Gee, what's going on down here? Say, what's it all 
about?" He was the same good-natured, simple-minded goof 
as ever, and he paid me no mind. 

I had neither the time nor the energy to enforce my order. 
We simply left him and hurried on to room zero. 

"Father Jacopo will take care of her," I said to the waiter. 
"You run off and find Commander Mannsteufel and Dr. 
Kapra as fast as possible. Tell them what is going on here 
and explain that we urgently need medical and military rein- 
forcements." I knew that Karl could be depended on. 

After he had left, I hurried back to the Silver Hall so that 
I would be at my post when the commander arrived, ready 
to make the requisite report. 

As soon as I entered the room, Barnabas plucked at my 
sleeve. He was doubled over with laughter. "What do you 
say to this business?" he chortled. "They're having them- 
selves a ball, eh?" And then he pointed a finger at the bare 
walls. "Like plucked chickens, eh? Ha-ha-ha." 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

"You damned fool, if you don't shut up I'll ram your 
teeth down your throat." 

"You never did have a sense of humor," Barnabas replied, 
and went on laughing uproariously. 

It was hopeless; what could one do with a fellow like this, 
when not even the infection with all its pain and convul- 
sions could teach him gravity? 

A faint tap-tapping sounded from the corridor. Louder 
and louder, the heavy tramp of soldiers' boots approached 
the door. I sighed with relief: "At last!" 

The door was flung open. Commander Mannsteufel, ac- 
companied by Dr. Kapra, entered. His stiffly erect figure 
seemed to tower up through the ceiling into the atmosphere, 
into the universe. The bold aquiline nose stood drawn like a 
gigantic saber against the horizon, against the whole of Crea- 
tion. 

He took one look at the shambles which had been the Sil- 
ver Hall and at the tumbling couples on the floor. Then, 
even before he issued an order to his troops, he came down 
upon me like a thunderstorm: "You slacker, you scoundrel, 
you despicable war criminal, you traitor to your country! I'll 
court-martial you, I'll have you hanged, you . . . you . . ." 

"For he's a jolly good fellow," the tireless phonograph 
bleated. 

"Devil take it, turn off that damnable machine!" Manns- 
teufel stormed. "Forward, attack!" he ordered his soldiers. 

First of all the honor of our uniform had to be redeemed, 
and the soldiers wallowing on the floor had to be got back 
on their feet. 

"Give it to them! No mercy!" Mannsteufel urged his men 
on. "What do you think the Lord gave you fists for? What 
are you wearing boots for if you don't know how to use 
them? You can whip a handful of drunks into shape, can't 
you? Damn it all, go at them!" 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) IQQ 

Soldiers could scarcely have carried out an order more 
obediently. Nevertheless, it was not easy to separate the uni- 
forms and skirts entangled in their bacchantic orgy. Impa- 
tiently, Mannsteufel himself plunged into the melee and 
gave one of the Silver Hall guards a vigorous kick. "That's 
the way to do it." 

In high dudgeon, Mannsteufel turned to the doctor. 
"Now here you have something new under the sun. Unbe- 
lievable, absolutely unbelievable! Soldiers who flop them- 
selves on the floor without having been shot. Under my com- 
mand! They'll pay for it, I can tell you that!" And as though 
all the punishments stipulated by courts-martial were not 
enough, he added his own list of possible penalties, arranged 
in an ascending order of sadism: "I'll have them put up 
against the wall, hanged, racked, drawn and quartered; I'll 
cut their balls off." Suddenly he was seized by a shiver. "Brr, 
there's a draft," he interrupted himself. He pointed to the 
still-open door and barked at me: "Shut that!" 

I hurried to obey. As I reached the door, I found Barna- 
bas, a grin spread across his whole face, hidden behind it. 

The commander had already caught sight of him and 
Mannsteufel's expression was something to see! His mouth 
gaped, his eyes strained from their sockets. "How dare you 
grin in my presence!" he roared. "Will you stop it at once, 
you . . ." He strode threateningly toward Barnabas, his 
clenched fists raised. 

Dr. Kapra caught his arm. "No, Mannsteufel." He tried to 
placate the commander. "This is one of the patients from up- 
stairshe's had it. The man's a bit off his head." 

"What do you mean, a bit off his head?" The command- 
er's fist lunged at Barnabas' face. I had never dreamed I 
would see the smile wiped off Barnabas' grinning mug, but 
Mannsteufel accomplished it. 

"Don't stand around like an idiot, you shirker," Manns- 
teufel snarled at him. "Pitch in!" 



2QQ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

Barnabas was like a changed man. With an absolutely 
deadly earnestness he began kicking Grimbam to such good 
purpose that he brought the fellow to his feet in a moment. 

"When will you get around to your report, you irresponsi- 
ble nitwit!" Mannsteufel abruptly blasted me, as though I 
had been withholding my report of my own accord through- 
out this little contretemps. "How could you ever let this 
stinking mess get started?" 

When I reached the point in my report of mentioning 
that Lieutenant Waldo had come down with the disease, Dr. 
Kapra exclaimed, "For Heaven's sake, why didn't you send 
for me at once?" I was not given the chance to explain. "I 
must look to him right away," he said, and made for the 
door. In his haste he collided with a soldier. His glasses fell 
from his nose. I stooped to pick them up, but already a 
heavy military boot had come down upon the lenses, crush- 
ing them to powder. His naked, greenish eyes peering my- 
opically about, the doctor stood helpless in the doorway. It 
was only natural for me to extend my hand to him, so that I 
could guide him to Waldo. But to Mannsteufel there was 
nothing natural about the most natural act in the world. 

"You stay here, Ember," he snapped. "You'd like that, 
wouldn't you, hightailing it away from the mess you've 
created? That civilian there can guide him; he's standing 
around doing nothing anyhow." He jerked a blunt thumb at 
the waiter who was patiently waiting to take the doctor to 
Madame Renoir. 

I could see the waiter falter. "Go along, Karl," I urged him. 
"The doctor is in a hurry." 

The waiter drew me aside. "What about Madame?" he 
whispered anxiously to me. "Have you forgotten her?" 

"Later. You realize, the lieutenant must come first/' I put 
him off. 

"Well, waiter, how long will I have to wait?" Mannsteufel 
barked angrily. These words, so familiar to a waiter's ears, 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) 2OI 

brought Karl back to a dutiful state of mind. With the impec- 
cable good form and alacrity of his profession, he gave the 
doctor his hand and started away with him. 

I set about helping the others. At last we succeeded in re- 
storing the honor of the uniform that is, in getting all the 
soldiers back on their feet. 

"Now see to it that you clear the room of these filthy civil- 
ians and the broken glass," Mannsteufel ordered. 

But before the clean-up could begin, the doctor returned, 
still led by the waiter. 

"How is he?" the commander asked. 

"Finished/' the doctor reported. 

"Impossible the lieutenant dead?" the commander ex- 
claimed. Whereupon, ignoring place and circumstances, but 
faithful to the army manual, he clicked his heels, stood to 
attention, raised his right hand to his temple, and called 
upon the soldiers present to pay their respects to the dead. 
All the men in uniform at once snapped to salute, prepared 
to show final honors to the dead lieutenant with a solemn 
minute of silence. Unfortunately, Grimbam, after a fierce 
struggle with himself, was forced to hiccup. The commander 
glared furiously at him. Grimbam tried to hold his breath, 
but he failed, and once more hiccuped loudly. 

"You swine, will you stop that!" Mannsteufel shouted. 

"Beg pardon, sir, can't help it," Grimbam stammered, 
each word punctuated by hiccups. 

"Can't help it! I'll show you how!" the commander cried, 
and he lunged his fist into the pit of Grimbam's stomach. 
But even Mannsteufel's fist was helpless against the power 
of nature. Hiccuping loudly, Grimbam stumbled from the 
room. 

While, thanks to Mannsteufel's firm action, the honor of 
the uniform had been restored comparatively quickly, and 
the derelict soldiers converted back into obedient subordi- 
nates, it was quite another matter to rehabilitate the good 



2Q2 e Silver Bacchanal 

citizens of Drohitz. Even if their shameless behavior in the 
Silver Hall should never reach the ears of their fellow citi- 
zens, there would remain the torments of their own con- 
sciences. But there was no time now for consideration of 
conscience. Mannsteufel acted too quickly. 

Regardless of the way they had behaved, now, without re- 
gard for status or sex, to belabor them with kicks and blows 
as though they were drunken soldiers that was something 
only a brute like our commander could conceive of doing. If 
I had not been wearing a uniform, and if, moreover, I had 
not been a coward at heart, I would have rushed upon 
Mannsteufel and spat straight at the three stars on his collar. 
But in my position as a subordinate I had to obey his or- 
ders just as the other soldiers did; I had to do my share in it 
all. At any rate, whenever I felt he was not looking, I simply 
went through the motions of punishing the civilians, deliver- 
ing mock blows like an actor on the stage. 

When I had to attend to Eve, and pull her out of her 
daze, this business of shamming almost turned out badly. 
"Kiss me, otherwise I'll never live it down/' she whispered, 
trying to snuggle up to me. To be perfectly honest, I found 
it would be too hard not to do her that little favor. Luckily, 
amid all the tumult no one noticed us. After that, however, 
I thought it wiser to turn her over to one of the sergeants 
of Mannsteufel's detachment. 

This same sergeant then set to work on Malva, and 
pushed the poor girl about so roughly that she started to 
hemorrhage. "Brute," I cried, punching the sergeant in the 
ribs. "Don't you realize what you've done? Mistreating a 
pregnant woman that way! Dr. Kapra, hemorrhage," I 
shouted to the doctor. The word appealed to his physician's 
conscience so keenly that the nearsighted man was suddenly 
able to see without his glasses, and came directly over to 
Malva. 

I would not have thought it possible that anyone could 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) 2O3 

summon up the courage to oppose the commander as vigor- 
ously as Dr. Kapra did for Mannsteufel would stand for 
no exceptions and barked, "What's this! What the devil? 
Pull her to her feet." But the doctor, blind as a bat though 
he was, stood his ground and roared right back at Mannsteu- 
fel. And miracle of miracles, Mannsteufel stood there like 
the most subordinate of subordinates, stood there open- 
mouthed and took his dressing down. Then, as though all 
orders did not stem from the commander, the doctor called 
imperatively: "Ember, Kalabas, lift her carefully and carry 
her into the examining room. But take it easy, understand?" 

Although no one could see it, I knew at that moment 
with absolute certainty that the same angel who had once 
before passed through the room on Malva's account had 
now returned and was watching over her again. We carried 
Malva across the shards of glass into the pantry, where Kala- 
bas remained to assist the doctor. 

When I returned to the hall, most of the ladies, whores 
and gentlemen were standing, still slightly dazed, with wild 
hair and rumpled clothes, but at least on their feet. It was 
pitiable to see them in their wretchedness, with the hang- 
over just beginning. 

Where were the inmates of the Silver Hall to be taken 
and what should be done about the shambles of the room? 
But before Mannsteufel could issue an order, a messenger 
came rushing in from one of the annexes with a dispatch for 
the commander. Evidently something dreadful must have 
happened. For, as though the whole Silver Hall problem no 
longer existed, Mannsteufel dictated in his brusquest tone: 
"Go to Dr. Kapra at once and tell him that I expect him im- 
mediately at our fourth annex, Lantern Street 3." From 
the doorway he called over his shoulder: "You finish up 
here. And woe to you if . . ." And he was out of sight and 
hearing. 

Off I went with the message to the doctor, but before I 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

reached the pantry the waiter seized my arm. "Ember, Mad- 
ame Renoir!" he besought me. "Hurry, or it will be too 
late!" 

I sympathized with the poor devil, but I had to refuse 
him. "Orders are orders/' I said, and pulled away. 

Dr. Kapra was still busy with Malva. "It's tough on a 
doctor in times like these," he sighed when I informed 
him of the commander's order. 

No sooner were we out in the corridor than the waiter 
blocked our way. He knew that this was his last chance to 
get hold of the doctor. All the lamentations, pleas and per- 
suasions that a man can summon up at such moments, the 
faithful servant produced in his concern for his mistress. 
"Doctor, you promised me upstairs that you'd come, and so 
did Ember. And now you're going off and leaving her to 
die. Please come and look in on her just for a moment. 
Have mercy!" He went on pleading in a shaking voice, and 
it seemed as if all of humanity was beseeching us through 
him. 

Although the commander was expecting him, Dr. Kapra 
was unable to refuse the waiter's plea. After all, underneath 
his uniform he was a man and a doctor who could not bring 
himself to go his way when he knew that a few steps away 
someone needed his professional help. "All right," he said. 

The medical examination in room zero did not detain 
him long. I saw at once, from the way Father Jacopo's face 
was raised toward Heaven, that there was little to be done. 
All that remained for Dr. Kapra was to feel for Madame 
Renoir's pulse, lay his ear against her chest, and ask for a 
mirror. The waiter hurriedly brought his shaving mirror. 
Dr. Kapra held it in front of Madame Renoir's mouth. "If 
those damned glasses hadn't . . ." he murmured, bringing 
the mirror right up to his myopic eyes. There was not the 
slightest mist upon it. 

"Coronary, not a doubt about it/' he commented matter- 
of-factly. 



xi The Silver Bacchanal) 205 

Madame Renoir was the first person to die a natural death 
since the epidemic had descended upon Drohitz. The waiter 
stood with eyes streaming tears. Father Jacopo knelt and 
began to pray for the salvation of the dead woman's soul. 
There was nothing for me to do but let things take their 
course while I myself guided the nearsighted doctor to the 
annex. 



XII 

Promotion 



i 



had intended to conduct Dr. Kapra to his 
destination and return to the Silver Hall without delay. But 
when we arrived a whole flock of newly delivered cases was 
already waiting to be examined and classified by the doctor, 
before being sent to the various annexes. Naturally there 
was work for me, too. Before I could return to the Silver 
Hall I had to sort out the hopeless cases and arrange for 
their disposal. 

This took longer than I had expected the main reason 
being Dr. Kapra's lack of glasses. The doctor was a man of 
the old school and insisted on examining every patient care- 
fully to ascertain whether there was even a spark of hope, 
the faintest chance of keeping the moribund alive. 

"Can I put this one aside yet?" I would ask. 

"Wait a moment, let me have a close look at him first," he 
would answer every time. 

Perhaps a family doctor in peacetime can afford to be so 
finicky, but for a near-sighted regimental physician without 
glasses amid the hordes of victims of a wartime epidemic, his 
conduct was sheer luxury. We had scarcely finished with 
half the patients we found waiting for us when the arrival 
of more shipments of the sick was announced. 



xii Promotion) 

Something had to be done to speed things up. Suddenly 
I had an inspiration. 

Among the deceased there were quite a few who wore 
glasses. Under normal circumstances it would never have 
occurred to me to snatch the glasses off a dead man's nose, 
but what did it matter? The near-sighted would have no use 
for their glasses in the beyond, would they? I collected a few 
pairs of glasses and had the doctor try them. Now the lenses 
were too strong, now too weak, now the nosepiece did not 
fit; but at last we found a pair that did the trick. Wearing 
these borrowed glasses, Dr. Kapra began making his exami- 
nations with much greater dispatch. 

I was still up to my ears in work, separating the dead 
from the living and those who had undoubtedly breathed 
their last from those who still needed Dr. Kapra's OK, when 
Grimbam came running up to me. 

"You must come at once," he panted. "We can't handle 
that crew in the Silver Hall." 

"Idiot, can't you see that I have my own hands full right 
here?" I snarled at him. 

"Kalabas says he can't control them by himself. They're 
breaking out and running away," 

"So what? What the devil does it matter whether a hand- 
ful of civilians and whores run off when we're swamped 
with the sick and the dead? Who cares about the whole 
Silver Hall? You'd better go and tell Kalabas and the others 
to quit wasting their time in that rubble heap and come over 
here to help carry off the dead. We need every man." 

One after the other, virtually without a pause, the ship- 
ments of the disease-stricken were coming in from the town. 
Heaven only knows what had boosted the epidemic to this 
degree. Was it fresh broods of flies and rats, or more visita- 
tions by the dead mayor and his band, or did the contagion 
no longer need any special agent could it manage of its 
own accord now? 



Siiver Bacchanal 

With typical foresight Commander Mannsteufel had al- 
ready had a whole row of additional houses along Lantern 
Street evacuated to make room for the sick. But with the 
ever-rising tide of new patients, even these measures proved 
insufficient. Dr. Kapra, forced by sheer necessity, ordered 
the patients doubled up in the available beds and eventu- 
ally had them bedded on rags spread out on the floor. 

The number of dead also rose, of course. I was constantly 
called from one house to another. When all the running 
back and forth became too much for me, I organized regular 
corpse rounds at stated intervals. Only then did I realize 
fully the predatory greed with which Death gathers up his 
prey once he has been emboldened by war to don his 
plague dress. Many of the beds were like nests of corpses; in 
others the dead and moribund lay scrambled together, so 
that at times we had only to wait a little in order to be able 
to carry them all out together. 

It was not long before most of the back yards and gardens 
of the Mashinka were overcrowded and we had to start 
searching the whole terrain to break new ground. 

With each succeeding day the situation grew worse. 

At midnight on the fourth day after the smashing of the 
Silver Hall, Kalabas, Grimbam and I finished up our last 
collection and had the corpses readied for removal. But by 
then the incoming cases had so blocked sidewalks and road- 
way with stretchers and patients that it was a sheer impos- 
sibility for us to push through. There was nothing to be 
done but to dump our load temporarily in the doorways un- 
til we found some burial place we could reach without cross- 
ing the main street of the Mashinka. 

"Leave it to me," I said to Kalabas and Grimbam. "I'll 
find some vacant spot in one of the yards or gardens, or on 
the slope. But I'll need some kind of light to find my way 
about in the darkness." Most of the heavy sham-baroque 
lamps from the bordello parlors had been converted back 



xn Promotion) 2OO 

to kerosene because of the wartime shortage of electricity, 
but they weighed a ton. However Grimbam had a saving 
idea. "What about the lantern hanging over the door," he 
suggested. "Of course it is red," he added hesitantly. 

"Well, what of it?" I replied. Red light was light, after all, 
and if it was good enough to guide visitors on their way to 
the bordellos, it would help me find my way to some suit- 
able burial ground. I lifted the lantern off its hook. "Wait 
here, I'll be right back," I said, and set out. 

But nowhere could I find a spot that was not already over- 
crowded with corpses. I was about to turn back when the 
glow of my lantern picked out a small clear strip near the 
cordon. It did seem somewhat too narrow to hold the fifty- 
odd corpses we had collected, but it was the best I had seen. 

The cordon was solid as an iron curtain, of course. Even 
so, what harm could be done if I begged the sergeant on 
duty to move the cordon back just a few yards? After all, 
even a sergeant has human emotions on occasion. At any 
rate, he could do no more than say no. 

My red lantern swaying back and forth had attracted the 
sergeant's attention, and he came over to me to ask my 
name and my business. I came to the point right away, and 
the sergeant of the cordon proved to be one of those rare 
sergeants with a heart and soul. 

"I fully understand," he said, after I had explained the 
situation. And he ordered his men to draw the cordon back 
a little. 

Delighted with the success of my mission I paused for a 
moment to gloat over the ground I had gained, and then 
turned to go back to Kalabas and Grimbam and fetch the 
corpses. But just as I started off one of the soldiers from the 
cordon came running up to me. "The sergeant wants to 
speak to you for a moment." 

I started in alarm, fearing that he had changed his mind. 
But that was not the case. He had called me back because a 



21 o (The Silver Bacchanal 

truck from the town had arrived with a load for the graves 
section. The Mashinka could not receive a single additional 
truck, and since I happened to be at hand he wanted me to 
handle the matter. After he had been so considerate toward 
me, I could not very well refuse. 

I went up to the truck and flashed my red lantern over it. 
What a mass of bodies! If they were unloaded here there 
would be no room for my own corpses. 

"Can you wait a few minutes?" I said to the driver. "I 
must go back for reinforcements." Meanwhile, of course, I 
was planning to bring up my own corpses and place them 
here before the ground was taken away from me. 

"Sorry, we have orders to unload and return to town im- 
mediately. Every vehicle is urgently needed/' the driver 
snapped. "Come on," he called to his helpers, and they be- 
gan unloading without more ado. And how brutally they 
went about it. They tossed the corpses down off the truck 
like sacks of fertilizer, as though they had not, only a short 
while ago, been living beings. I was shaking with indigna- 
tion, but there was nothing I could do. 

"Now it's up to you to take care of them," the driver said; 
he jumped back to the wheel and drove off. 

Professional gravedigger that I was, I had lost a good deal 
of the respect that is due to the dead. Nevertheless, I could 
not possibly leave the corpses lying about in such utter chaos 
as this bodies of officers, soldiers, townsmen and women 
flung down in one crazy heap. I had to sort them and lay 
them out properly before I went. Besides, since my reserved 
space was already gone, there was no particular need for me 
to hurry back. In fact, I decided that as soon as I finished this 
work I would take a well-earned rest. I had been sweating it 
out all day long, and by now I was so tired I could hardly 
stand. 

I was just laying out the last corpse when I heard a roar 
and rattle. I paused and peered into the blackness. There 
ahead, out of the pitch-darkness, glaring headlights ap- 



xii Promotion) 

proached and stopped near me. The compact mass of a 
truck rose before me. Two shadowy figures floated down 
from the cab and moved like gigantic ghosts toward my red 
lantern. I realized at once that this was still another load of 
corpses. Lucky we had no more room available. 

When the driver barked out his order, I retorted, not with- 
out a touch of malice, "Sorry, but it's simply impossible. 
Everything is already overcrowded/' 

"What do you mean, overcrowded?" he replied. "There's 
room enough." 

My profession had given me a practiced eye for terrain, 
and I could calculate precisely the capacity of a given bit of 
ground. I wasn't going to let any idiot of a driver tell me 
how many dead could be laid in an area thirty feet wide. 

"Don't you see how many are piled up here?" I said 
sharply, and flashed my lantern over the bodies of the first 
load. 

"And what about the empty space back there?" he an- 
swered. 

"The cordon is back there," I replied. 

"Nonsense, I'll show you," the driver said. 

"Go right ahead." 

I went along with him. "There, you see," he said. "You're 
just trying to shirk work." 

I was stunned. If I knew anything, I knew that thirty feet 
were thirty feet. There was no doubt about that. And yet 
the fellow was right there was room. 

"Come on," he called to his helpers, and they started un- 
loading their cargo. As they were about to drive off a third 
truck came roaring up, and the driver of the second called 
to the driver of the third, "There's room over there, plenty 
of room." He had already backed his truck and turned 
around, and as I followed the direction of his headlights I 
saw to my utter amazement an enormous free area stretch- 
ing out in front of his truck for hundreds of feet. 

It was unimaginable that thirty feet could extend to a 



2 J2 (The Silver Bacchanal 

hundred. Was something supernatural going on here? Space 
is space, after all; it is fixed and definite and cannot stretch 
on and on without an end. That sort of thing happens only 
in fairy tales, when the most impossible things are possible. 

To settle the matter at once, I started running toward the 
cordon. But although I had talked with the sergeant right 
there a short while before, and knew exactly where the line 
ran, I could not find the cordon anywhere. It seemed to 
have been swallowed up by the earth. No matter how far I 
went, empty space yawned in front of me and to all sides. I 
must have gone at least half a mile, and when the empti- 
ness seemed to extend into infinity, I was gripped by a pre- 
monition that if I took another step ahead I would fall out 
of space and would be lost forever. Fear of voracious beasts, 
powerful foes, earthquakes and avalanches is nothing com- 
pared to the terror that a vacuum inspires. 

Abruptly, I turned on my heel and ran frantically back to 
the place from which I had started. I sighed with relief 
when I beheld the spread-out corpses; I felt like a lost child 
that has found its way home, returned to the safety and 
shelter of the family. And now, seeing those corpses 
stretched out so peacefully, I was gripped by an almost en- 
vious craving to imitate them. 

True, Kalabas and Grimbam were waiting for me, and 
our corpses were blocking the doorways; but what did I 
care? My sole desire was to stretch myself out for once as 
comfortably as the dead. I threw myself down among the 
dead, so that I would not have to face the menace of an 
inch of empty space. My last thought before I closed my 
eyes was of how the dead must relish spending a whole 
eternity motionless and undisturbed, not having to get up 
again until Judgment Day. I might well have followed their 
lead if familiar voices had not suddenly forced me to wake 
up and listen. 

"Are my eyes deceiving me? Kalabas, come, look here. 



xii Promotion) 

That's Ember, isn't it of course it's he," I heard Grimbam 
saying. 

"So that's why no one could find him. Dead. Just as I 
predicted in the Silver Hall. Now his turn has come." 

"Nothing to cry over. One bastard the less." 

"What a brute you are. Haven't you any feelings at all 
for a dead buddy? He wasn't a bad fellow at heart. I'm sorry 
about him." 

"Don't give me that stuff. Come on, be honest. You're 
glad you'll get a promotion and take his place. Why the 
fake mourning?" 

"I owe it to my religion." 

"Hypocrite!" 

"We'd better notify Dr. Kapra at once, so that he calls off 
the search for him. Hey, Private, skip over to the doctor and 
tell him we've found Ember dead. Well, come on, Grim- 
bam, we've lost enough time. Look at the pile we have to 
remove here. Help me carry Ember so that he'll go with the 
first load." And the two of them started to lift me. 

This was getting a little too close for comfort. It was high 
time for me to give a sign of life. I began wriggling. 

"He's moving God help us, he's still alive," Kalabas 
cried out in fright. "Ember do you hear me?" 

I opened my eyes. Day was already breaking. "Yes, of 
course," I said. "I just passed out. Couldn't keep awake any 
longer." 

"And here we went and notified Dr. Kapra that you're 
dead," Kalabas blurted out. "Couldn't you have spoken up 
sooner, instead of letting us go out on a limb like that? We'll 
have to recall the report right away. Hey, you there," he 
shouted to another medical aide who was busy with the 
corpses, "run to Dr. Kapra and report to him that Ember is 
still alive." Then he turned back to us. "But now let's get to 
work. You too, Ember. Since you aren't dead you might as 
well lend us a hand. We've got no time; we have to ship all 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

the stuff lying around here to the sugar refinery before 
twelve." 

"To the sugar refinery?" I asked in amazement. "That's 
on the other side of the cordon." 

"What do you mean, other side of the cordon? There 
hasn't been any cordon since midnight." 

"What's that? What happened to it?" I stammered. 

"Commander canceled it. By now it was only a crazy idea 
anyhow. What's the difference between the Mashinka and 
the rest of the town when half of Drohitz is hit and every 
house is filled with the sick? All the cordon was doing was 
blocking traffic." 

"Wonderful!" I shouted jubilantly. 

"What's so wonderful about it?" 

I could not explain the matter to him, but I threw my 
arms around his neck in an excess of relief. 

"You see, Grimbam, I always told you he was a good guy 
underneath it all," Kalabas murmured, slightly embarrassed. 

"A good guy? If he isn't a fool I've never met one," Grim- 
bam mumbled. 

"Come on, let's get to work. We've got to get rid of these, 
and it's quite a ways to the sugar refinery." 

"Why the sugar refinery instead of the warehouse, which 
is a lot closer?" I asked. 

"Because the yard of the warehouse is already chock-full 
of corpses. You seem to have slept through everything that 
went on here during the night. Wait till you see the place. 
Half the city is a hospital, and every yard, every clear spot 
of ground is a cemetery." 

We had reached the sugar refinery and were starting to 
unload our corpses when a messenger arrived. 

"Is Gravedigger Ember here? Dr. Kapra has ordered him 
to be brought in at once, dead or alive." 

"Here I am," I said. 

"Then follow me to the orphanage." 



xii Promotion) 

Dr. Kapra was hard at work. Apparently the evacuated 
orphanage had been turned into a temporary epidemic hos- 
pital. "Wait a moment/' he called to me. 'Til soon be 
through. I've got good news for you." He issued a few in- 
structions and turned to me again. "You've been promoted 
to Commissioner of Deceased Persons of the whole Drohitz 
Sector!" 

What a surprise! Naturally I had cherished ambitions, like 
everyone else, to make something of myself in the army. But 
now that this dream of promotion was so unexpectedly ful- 
filled, I somehow could not respond as joyfully as I should 
devil knows why. Only after Dr. Kapra threw a puzzled 
look at me did I catch myself up and come to attention with 
a snappy salute. 

He instructed me to issue the necessary orders in the sugar 
refinery, so that Kalabas and Grimbam could carry on alone, 
and then trot over to the Town Hall to be briefed for my 
new post. "And now, good luck," he said, dismissing me. 

It is hard to believe what a promotion will do for a man. 
As long as I stood there receiving orders from the doctor I 
was the same old subordinate gravedigger I had been, but 
the moment I left him I became a new man. 

To issue orders instead of obeying them good Lord, 
what an enormous difference that made! Everything around 
me, the gravediggers, the stretchers, the corpses, the sugar 
refinery which had become a new depot, even the sky above 
it and the whole rest of the world seemed utterly different 
from what they had been when I regarded them as a mere 
subaltern. And I myself stood differently; and whereas for- 
merly I had habitually wiped my nose on my coat sleeve, I 
now instinctively took out my handkerchief for that pur- 
pose. 

But it was not only that I seemed so utterly changed to 
myself. There was no doubt that the others noticed it and 
behaved accordingly. Kalabas and Grimbam, who had al- 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

ways treated me as their equal and been as impertinent as 
they liked, now behaved with the utmost respect toward 
me. They stood at attention before me, waiting obediently 
for my commands, just as I had been accustomed to do be- 
fore officers. And the same conduct was observable in every- 
one else I had anything to do with. Although I was still 
wearing the same uniform and as yet had neither stars nor 
stripes to show my new rank, they recognized the commis- 
sioner in me, just as though it were written on my face, and 
they paid me the deference that was my due. 

Moreover, the soundness of the old proverb that whom 
God gives power he gives the brains to go with it was 
proved in my case. A person who had been born to leader- 
ship and had done nothing else but issue orders all his life 
could not have snapped out commands more crisply and ju- 
diciously than I did now. Then I went straight to the Town 
Hall to take over my new post. 



XIII 

Drohitz Revisited 



T 

JLhc city was changed beyond recognition. I had 
last seen it in festive garb on the day of our arrival, the 
streets beflagged and filled with gaily surging crowds. Now 
it lay deserted and empty, doors and windows locked, blinds 
down, walls pasted over with a barrage of official notices. 
In my haste to reach the Town Hall I merely glanced at 
these posters as I strode by. "Suspects and members of their 
families required to report immediately/' "Drinking of un- 
boiled water prohibited under penalty of the law." "Unau- 
thorized persons are forbidden to enter houses chalked with 
a cross/' Who was supposed to read all this stuff, I thought 
to myself, when there was not a single pedestrian on the 
streets? 

I did not know my way about Drohitz and had no idea 
which direction to take in order to reach the Town Hall. So 
I knocked on a door and kept pounding away until at last 
the blinds were drawn up over a window and an inquisitive 
face peered out. At the sight of me the face started back as 
though I were a messenger of evil, and in a moment the 
blinds were lowered again. I tried my luck at several other 
houses blinds up, alarmed face, blinds down one house 
after the other, as though a conspiracy were afoot against 
me. 



2i 8 (The Silver Bacchanal 

I turned into an avenue branching off to the left, which 
appeared to lead to the center of town. Suddenly I saw a 
car swing sharply around the corner. It roared past me. Five 
men wearing gas masks sat in it. Then, to my astonishment, 
the car braked some distance from me, rolled backward and 
stopped beside me. One of the gas masks jumped out. 

"Second Lieutenant Gritz of the flying disinfection pa- 
trol," he introduced himself. "Can I help you, sir?" 

Astonishing, I thought, that this lieutenant, in spite of the 
furious speed, should have noticed behind his gas mask that 
I was a person of consequence. 

"Adam Ember, Commissioner of Deceased Persons," I 
snapped out. "I am looking for the Town Hall." 

"Be glad to take you there, sir, except that we have orders 
to smoke out Crescent Street 5, down in the lower town. 
But we can give you directions. Go straight ahead to the 
third intersection, turn left into Matthew Street, then 
straight on to the traffic light, turn right, and then left again 
at the second crossing. You can't miss it. Sorry, but we have 
to . . ." He jumped aboard the car and they roared off 
again. 

I followed his instructions and turned left into Matthew 
Street. 

"Don't you see the arrow! Closed to pedestrians." A senti- 
nel intercepted me. Then suddenly, as though thinking bet- 
ter of it, he inquired whether I had authority to pass down 
Matthew Street. 

"Yes, of course," I replied. "I'm the Commissioner of De- 
ceased Persons and must get to the Town Hall." 

"When you come to the next arrow, sir, just give the pass- 
word 'Vabra.' Then you will not be stopped, sir." 

I went down Matthew Street. Almost every door was 
chalked with a white cross, and underneath in large block 
letters stood the word: CONTAGION! As I proceeded through 
"Vabra" streets I wondered whether there was any unchalked 



xiii Drohitz Revisited) 21 Q 

quarter left in the town of Drohitz. At last I reached the 
Town Hall. 

I entered the building. The lobby resembled a hospital. 
It was swarming with people in white smocks carrying 
stretchers laden with groaning patients in and out of the 
corridors, up and down the stairs. "Room thirty-two/' they 
called to one another. "Room seventeen, Section M, Sec- 
tion Z." Would I find anyone left at his post who could give 
me the necessary information? The men in smocks were 
tearing around so busily that I could not even ask where the 
Public Health office was located. Then I caught sight of 
one stationary smock standing beside a stretcher at the foot 
of a stairway and calling, "Rippel, Rippel, I can't carry 
him up by myself, you know." 

I went over to him, but before I could put my question 
he said, "I don't know where the devil that fellow Rippel is. 
Could you help me carry the patient to Section M, sir?" 
The man on the stretcher was writhing in convulsions. What 
else could I do but take up one end of the stretcher and fol- 
low the smock to Section M? 

When we entered we were greeted by wailing and groan- 
ing. An elderly doctor was going from one patient to an- 
other, administering morphine injections. 

"Another one, always another one. They haven't stopped 
coming in since early morning," he lamented as we entered. 

He was obviously on the point of collapse, so I offered to 
lend him a hand. 

"Lucky you came along," the doctor said. "I really don't 
know how I could have handled it." 

The door opened again and three more stretchers were 
brought in. "There simply is no end to it," he sighed. "Thank 
God you are here, at any rate." 

"I'd like to go on helping you," I said, "but I must get to 
the Public Health office. You see, I am the newly appointed 
Commissioner of Deceased Persons." 



22O (The Silver Bacchanal 

"Why, that's wonderful/' the doctor exclaimed. "You 
can't imagine how eagerly we have been awaiting you. The 
dead are piling up from hour to hour. We have already 
turned three rooms of our hospital into morgues " 

"Your hospital?" I interrupted him. "Why, then I'm in 
the wrong place. Isn't this the Town Hall?" 

"Used to be. They have converted it into a hospital, like 
all the other municipal buildings." 

"Can you at least tell me where the town offices are lo- 
cated now?" I asked, rather discouraged. 

"In the rear wing of the building, the former police head- 
quarters." 

I thanked him and started toward the door. 

He intercepted me. "But what about our dead?" he said. 

"As soon as I receive my directions I'll arrange for them to 
be carried away at once," I promised him. 

I went around the building, entered the back door and 
found myself in a long room with about eighteen desks, 
each complete with officials and filing cabinets. I stopped at 
the first desk, at which a man was riffling through a pile of 
documents. 

"I am Adam Ember, newly appointed Commissioner of 
Deceased Persons," I introduced myself. 

"So," he said in the dusty, papery voice of an indolent of- 
ficial. He did not even look up. 

"Regimental Doctor Kapra has sent me to find out the 
number of deceased in Drohitz and to establish temporary 
depots for them." 

"Then you've come to the wrong office. This is the De- 
partment of Sanitation. The head of the Public Health 
Department is in charge of the dead." 

"I beg your pardon, where is the Public Health Depart- 
ment?" I asked. 

"Where else would it be, if not in this room? Do you 
think we're still in the old Town Hall with separate offices 



xiii Drohitz Revisited) 221 

for each department? Just walk straight on down toward 
the end of the room you can't miss it." 

I squeezed my way between the desks, past God knows 
how many departments Traffic, Registry of Property, Wel- 
fare, Registry of Marriages until I finally reached Public 
Health. There I made my request. 

"Would be glad to help you, but my department covers 
only the municipal hospitals and their supplies. Deceases 
come under the Census Department, two desks down." 

I went on to the Census Department. 'Til look it up at 
once/' said a bald-headed official. He went over to the filing 
case and began to rummage. "No, not that; no, not that," 
he mumbled nervously, dropping one folder after the next 
on the floor. "Sorry," he said. "My predecessor was taken 
yesterday noon, right at his desk. I'm new here. Seems I 
can't lay my hands on these death lists right now. Better 
you drop in again tomorrow morning; by then I'll surely have 
the information you want." 

My patience gave out. "What do you mean, tomorrow? 
Have you lost your mind? I need those documents at once. 
If you don't know what's what, you have no right to be head 
of this department. This isn't an office, it's a muck-heap/' 
I shouted. 

A tall, shriveled fellow stepped to the desk and patted 
me on the shoulder. "Department Head Mackadu," he in- 
troduced himself. "I quite understand that you urgently 
need the statistics of the dead. But you must consider that 
with the rapid spread of the epidemic the municipal offices 
have suffered also, and nothing goes as smoothly as usual. 
After all, we are facing an emergency." 

"That's why it is so urgent to remove the dead." 

"I see that you are thinking only of the dead and forget- 
ting that there are still living officials who cannot do more 
than is humanly possible." 

"I have no time to indulge in philosophical discussions," 



222 (The Silver Bacchanal 

I snapped. "Either you see that I get those documents at 
once, or I'll complain at military headquarters/' I threatened. 

"Go right ahead, I'm not stopping you," he replied. 

I opened a door. "That's the wrong one, the exit is to the 
right," someone called after me. But I had already entered 
a room no bigger than a spacious closet. Hunched behind a 
desk sat an official buried in a heap of papers. I was about to 
turn around when I caught sight of his goatee. Am I seeing 
aright? I wondered. He certainly looked familiar. But no, it 
could not be. And yet, a goatee so stained by nicotine was 
certainly not to be met with every day in the week. 

I stepped closer. He looked up. Of course, I had guessed 
right. It was the budget director. 

"Why, how in the world have you ..." I exclaimed. 

Simultaneously he cried out: "Adam Ember, what brings 
you here?" 

"Well, what a surprise," we exclaimed in unison. "Who 
ever would have thought it?" 

This time I managed to speak first. "But tell me how 
come you are here." 

"As you see, I've returned to my old post. Perfectly nat- 
ural, after all just as soon as I got out of the Silver Hall I 
made straight for the Town Hall. Incidentally, it was high 
time I got here, because the epidemic has promoted most of 
the old guard under the ground. And besides, nobody 
knows as much about the municipal finances as I do. Just 
consider the vast unforeseen expenses an epidemic like this 
imposes on a town. The income has dropped to zero, and 
the subsidy from the army is just a pittance, of course. Now 
just suppose the town didn't keep its wits about it and let 
the budget run on unbalanced! A few Drohitzers might sur- 
vive the epidemic, but the town would find itself bankrupt. 
And then what good would it do the survivors to have sur- 
vived? I tell you, come what may, the municipal budget 
must be in order!" 



xin Drohitz Revisited) 223 

There was no stopping him now. "Look at this." He held 
a sheet of paper under my nose. It was covered with neatly 
penned debit and credit columns. "Looks pretty good, 
doesn't it?" 

I nodded approvingly. The Lord must have been in a 
jocular mood when He created bureaucrats. 

"So you see I'm doing my best/' he concluded. "But now 
you must tell me what brings you into town, and to our of- 
fice, no less." 

I told him of my appointment, my assignment, and finally 
of my fruitless argument with the census officer and the de- 
partment head. "I'm sorry I let my temper carry me away," 
I said half apologetically. "I was rather rude to them." 

The budget director displayed intense interest. "What 
did you say to them?" 

"Oh, that if a man didn't know how to handle his job he 
didn't belong in it, and that they were not running an office 
but a muck-heap." 

"Muck-heap!" he exclaimed joyfully. "Bravo, bravo, Em- 
ber." He rubbed his hands maliciously. "It's about time 
someone threw the truth into their faces." 

"Couldn't you help me somehow and get those docu- 
ments for me?" I asked him. "I really don't like the idea of 
complaining to the senior commander." 

"I'm afraid you're not familiar with our regulations, my 
friend. Every chief clerk has his own sphere and won't toler- 
ate interference from any other department. I myself can- 
not give you sufficient information. The cost of coffins and 
funeral figures in the budget are, of course, at my finger 
tips. But that would scarcely help you. Say, wait a moment," 
he interrupted himself. "I have an idea. You know who 
could give you all the information you need? Our Professor 
Drish. He's assembling all the data he can lay hands on for 
the War Archives." 

"Wonderful. Then I must go to see him right away," I 



224 (The Silver Bacchanal 

exclaimed, delighted. "Where can I find him?" 

"His office is in the former pastry shop. Oh yes, there was 
something else I ought to tell you about that . . . But bet- 
ter not, you'll see for yourself. You're in for a surprise! I'm 
sorry I'm tied up here, because I'd like to go along with you 
and see your face when you . . ." He trailed off meaning- 
fully. 

"How do I reach the pastry shop?" 

"I'll send my assistant along to guide you. Pafka," he 
called, "take Commisioner Ember to the military archives 
office." 

"You have to pound rather heavily on the door," Pafka 
said as he left me at the pastry shop. 



I knocked and knocked. At last the door opened. "Mr. 
Humperdingcr," I exclaimed. "I'd never dreamt we'd meet 
again!" As always, Humperdinger was clumsy-tongued. He 
stood there in his baker's apron, arms sticky with dough to 
the elbows, trousers dusty with flour, snorting like a loco- 
motive, and finally succeeded in puffing out: "Yes, it's 
me. Back at my old stand. Come along." 

He drew me inside. It was as though I had taken a coffee 
break in this pastry shop every afternoon of my life it 
seemed so familiar to me. Everything was exactly as our 
late friend Rappaport had described it in the Silver Hall. I 
paused a second and looked around. 

"Not a single fly! They've got wind of the extermination 
measures," Humperdinger assured me. "But now come and 
meet the wife. She'll sure be glad to see you." 

His wife? I wondered. In the Silver Hall he had passed 
himself off as a widower. 

We went through the shop toward the back room, where 
the great surprise was in store for me. 

"Baby!" Ludmilla threw her arms around my neck. She 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 225 

was munching something and swallowed it down quickly 
before she continued. "We certainly never imagined this, 
did we, baby?" She turned promptly to Humperdinger. 
"Don't mind my calling him 'baby/ It's just a habit." 

"Of course not/' Humperdinger stammered morosely. 

The room smelled deliciously of freshly baked bread. I 
sniffed greedily. "Now won't you two tell me" I purposely 
used the plural so that Humperdinger would not feel left 
out "how you ever got things started up again here, in 
such a short time?" 

"Well, I thought," Humperdinger began haltingly, "after 
we ... we ..." 

"Let me tell it," Ludmilla interrupted. "You see, as soon 
as we got away from the Silver Hall and reached town, 
Humperdinger said, We can't just sit around and wait till 
the epidemic knocks off the whole town/ He wanted to do 
something useful, and the most natural thing was to bake 
bread, of course. After all, Humperdinger started out as a 
baker's boy, and bread is something that's always needed. So 
he went to the Town Hall and asked for the concession as 
municipal baker. They gave it to him right away." 

"It's only ... the .. ." Humperdinger stammered. 

She took his words up at once. "He means it's only the 
beginning. If everything goes well he expects to open up his 
shop again soon." 

"And bake my famous rum baba again," Humperdinger 
added, pinching Ludmilla's backside as he used to do in the 
Silver Hall. 

"But now it's your turn, baby," Ludmilla said. "Tell us 
what brought you here. Aren't you in charge of the Silver 
Hall any more?" 

"Of course not. Don't you notice any change in me?" 

She examined me from head to foot. "Your mug still looks 
the same to me." 

"Well, I'll have you know that I've been promoted to 



Silver 

Commissioner of Deceased Persons of all Drohitz!" 

"You've certainly come a long way, baby! The Silver Hall 
can really be proud of you." 

"As a matter of fact, it's because of my new position that 
I'm here," I went on. 

Ludmilla looked at me wide-eyed: "You haven't come to 
buy bread for the dead, have you?" 

"Not quite," I parried. "I've come to speak with Professor 
Drish about some official matters. I need certain data and 
the budget chief has told me . . ." 

"Oh, then you've seen old Nicotine Beard already," Lud- 
milla interrupted. 

"He told me that the professor had set up his military ar- 
chives in the pastry shop." 

"Right," Humperdinger said. "We've turned the spare 
room over to him." 

Ludmilla opened a door and pointed to a table heaped 
with documents. "He's out just now, gathering material, but 
he'll be back soon. But won't you have something to eat 
first? You look starved." She didn't wait for my answer, but 
left the room and quickly returned with a pot of piping-hot 
coffee and a basket piled high with fresh-smelling rolls. 
"They're hot from the oven," she said. "Dig in, take which- 
ever you prefer, hard ones or soft ones, they're all delicious." 

She didn't have to urge me. The mere sight of fresh rolls 
made my head spin. "To think of having a choice even in 
times like these," I said appreciatively between mouthfuls. 

"You've got Hump to thank for that." 

"Here's to the baker of Drohitz," I exclaimed, lifting 
my coffee cup. "But tell me, Ludmilla, what has become of 
the rest of our gang?" 

"Well, soon after you left the Silver Hall we all broke 
away and escaped into town. The cordon was still in force 
that day. But Ginzele helped us out. He proved himself a 
true gentleman. He's rich, you know, and always carries 



xiii Drohitz Revisited) 22*7 

a few banknotes in his wallet. I needn't tell you that none of 
the sentries could resist it. He paid the passage for all of us, 
so that we were the first to leave the Mashinka." 

"What is Ginzele doing now?" 

"His insurance business is sunk, of course. Who would be 
buying insurance in times like these? People need every cent 
for the black market. Luckily, Ginzele didn't have to start 
right out in some new venture. He's helping to finance the 
disinfection of houses and has even placed one of his own 
houses at the town's disposal, for use as a hospital. There's 
an honest man for you." 

"And what about the rest?" 

"Whom do you want to hear about first? I suppose with 
your new job it's Dingda." 

"Yes, what has become of him?" 

"You and he are the only people who have really made a 
career of this mess. He's on top of the heap, the richest man 
in town. Can you think of anything that sells better than 
coffins today?" She told me that Dingda's son had died while 
his old man was locked up in the Silver Hall, but his daugh- 
ter, Rebecca, had kept the business going. 

"And how about the others?" 

"Gertrude and Mrs. Moffet are busy organizing a Ladies' 
Aid Committee. The lard dealer has become manage of the 
Consumer Co-operative. Rogemund has taken over the phar- 
macy, and the gray lady is head nurse at the Castle Hospital." 

Humperdinger excused himself for a moment. He had to 
load the bakery truck. 

"And what happened to the girls?" I asked as we remained 
alone. 

"I'll tell you, but you must promise to keep it quiet. The 
girls have decided to carry on with their business. After all, 
there are old customers to think about. People have to have 
some fun in times like these. The girls have rented a house, 
and everything is going along beautifully. Of course, it's all 



22$ ( The Silver Bacchanal 

being kept a secret we wouldn't want Military Headquar- 
ters ever to get wind of this. The house is underground, sort 
of. I've arranged the whole thing for them. You know, they're 
like sisters to me. I see to it that they have bread, food, cos- 
metics and everything else they may need. Hump looks the 
other way, for my sake. He's such a good soul. Really, I 
couldn't have wished for a better husband." 

Heaven knows what was riding me, but now that my 
stomach was filled a different kind of hunger assailed me. I 
no longer craved Ludmilla's soft rolls but her soft white 
breasts. I jumped up, grabbed her around the middle and 
tore open her blouse. 

"Baby," she panted with professional ardor. But then she 
recollected herself and pushed me away. "We'd better not. 
Hump will be back any moment, and he's jealous as a 
cock." 

So once again nothing came of it. 

"What about Eve?" I asked resignedly. "What is she do- 
ing?" 

"Oh, the poor girl," Ludmilla exclaimed. "When she got 
back from the Mashinka she found herself an orphan. Now 
with her mother gone she doesn't have a soul in the world. 
Do you know what, Adam? You should marry her. What a 
swell little wife she'd make!" 

"Well, well, Ludmilla, don't be marrying me off so fasti" 

"Why not? What are you waiting for? You're young and 
strong, you've got a good job. It's about time you started 
raising a family. At any rate you ought to meet her again. 
Just leave it to me; I'll arrange it. She'll be tickled pink to 
see you again." 

"Who'll be tickled pink?" asked Humperdinger, who had 
finished loading the truck. 

Before Ludmilla could answer there was a knock on the 
door. "That must be the professor," Ludmilla exclaimed. 
"Hump, go and open but don't tell him that Adam is here." 



xni Drohitz Revisited) 22 O 

The professor stood open-mouthed with amazement when 
he beheld me in the baking room. But he quickly recovered 
and showered me with a multilingual stream of surprised ex- 
clamations. 

After I in turn had voiced my pleasure at seeing him 
again, I told him of my appointment and of my hope that 
he could supply the data about the dead which I needed to 
get on with my job. 

He led me to his study and pointed to the table heaped 
with lists and documents. Swiftly, he combed through the 
sheaves of paper. He fished out a neatly written list on which 
the exact number of sick and dead, hospitals and cemeteries 
in Drohitz were arranged according to city districts. "And 
here are the latest additions. I can supply you with abso- 
lutely any information you need/' he said, opening his brief 
case. 

I extolled his thoroughness. "You have cause to be proud. 
Our Bureau of Military History can consider itself lucky to 
have a man of your caliber on its staff/' 

"To be sure, to be sure," he agreed. "But all this is noth- 
ing, Ember. What I really take credit for is the unique dis- 
covery I have made since my return from the Mashinka. 
This is going to prove of immense importance, and not only 
for our military archives but for the history of the war it- 
self. Someone else might well have compiled the exact count 
of the sick and dead. But I doubt that anyone else could 
have turned up what I did. Has either of you told him how 
many of us are here?" he asked the Humperdingers, who 
stood at the door listening to our conversation. 

"I've told him about most of them," Ludmilla said. 

"Well, what do you say to that, Ember that almost all 
of us from the Silver Hall are back in Drohitz again?" 

"Why, that's just great," I said. 

"Just great?" he asked, visibly disappointed. "You do not 
seem to grasp the whole significance of it all. Evidently, in 



2 3 Q ( The Silver Bacchanal 

your concern with mortuary matters you have completely 
lost sight of the survivors." 

This was the second reproach of that kind in a day. There 
must be something to it, I mused. 

"Doesn't it mean anything to you," he went on, "that 
our budget director is again in charge of the municipal 
finances, that the Humperdingers are providing all of Dro- 
hitz with bread, that Madam President is head of the Ladies' 
Aid Committee, that Ginzele, Dingda and even Rogemund 
are heading up vital posts?" 

I still did not see what he was getting at. "Naturally I'm 
happy to hear that they've all done so well for themselves," 
I agreed. 

"You are still missing the point," he said. "I am not con- 
cerned with the personal point of view. I am interested 
solely in the historical significance of this phenomenon. You 
can search through all the wartime epidemics of history and 
you will find nothing that even approximates the vast pur- 
port of my discovery. Beginning with the Punic Wars . . ." 

I knew from bygone days in the Silver Hall that once the 
professor got started on ancient wars there was no stop- 
ping him. And so I hastily interjected: "I'm dying to hear 
the details of your discovery." 

"The fantastic fact is that all those who stayed in Dro- 
hitz, who enjoyed complete freedom of movement and oc- 
cupied the highest positions, have died like flies and are 
already under the ground, whereas those who were quaran- 
tined in the Silver Hall were spared and are now holding po- 
sitions of crucial importance in our town." 

"Yes, it certainly is an epoch-making discovery," I quickly 
interrupted him. "We really must discuss the matter in de- 
tail some time. Right now, unfortunately, I have to attend 
to my official duties. Would you go through the lists with 
me?" 

He was agreeable, and placed all his material at my dis- 



xin Drohitz Revisited) 231 

posal. With professorial pedantry he explained where, in 
which districts, in which hospitals and in which morgues 
the victims of the epidemic were located, and which official 
I must apply to in each case. 

I decided to go first to the Castle Hospital, since according 
to the professor's lists a particularly large contingent of dead 
had accumulated there. Moreover, I was somewhat familiar 
with the place, and the gray lady would undoubtedly give 
me a hand. The professor placed his small car and driver at 
my disposal, so that I would be able to get to my destination 
faster. 

I thanked him heartily and bade them all goodbye, prom- 
ising to return as soon as I had a little time to spare. 

"But where are you going to sleep?" Ludmilla asked. 

"Military headquarters will find some billet," I replied. 

"Don't be silly; God knows where they'll put you up. 
We'll arrange something for you, so that you can have a de- 
cent, comfortable bed on your first night in town. I'm cer- 
tain Madam President will be only too glad to have you. 
Humperdinger will fix it up for you." 

Nothing so strikingly impressed me with the changes that 
the epidemic had wrought in Drohitz as my visit to the 
Castle Hospital. This was the very place where I had re- 
ported to Dr. Zitrom upon our arrival in Drohitz. The amaz- 
ing contrast between the hospital as I remembered it and 
what I now saw provided me with a measure of the devas- 
tation the epidemic had wrought. 

On my previous visit an excess of voluntary nurses had 
competed with one another to minister to our soldier lads. 
Often three of them would have been hovering about a sin- 
gle patient, and in addition there had been a gray lady by 
every bed, to while away the time for the pampered soldiers. 
Now the big reception hall of the castle was a place of hor- 
rors. The ward was jammed, bed lined up against bed and 



( ^ le Silver Bacchanal 

even the floor covered with patients, with only a few nurses 
who proved utterly unable to cope with the hordes of scream- 
ing patients. 

"Where is the head nurse?" I inquired. 

"She must have gone across to the women's section." 

"Where is that?" 

"In the next room." 

There I found the same lamentable scene with the only 
difference that here women instead of men were writhing in 
convulsions and crying for help. 

Then I caught sight of the gray lady. She was conducting 
herself as usual with infinite patience and gentleness. She 
seemed literally to be multiplying herself and to be giving 
succor at several beds at the same time. For a moment I hesi- 
tated to disturb her in her Samaritan's work. Then I gave 
myself a little push and threaded my way among the pallets 
on the floor toward her. 

"Adam Ember!" she exclaimed when I addressed her, but 
she was by no means as overjoyed with my visit as Ludmilla 
had been. On the contrary, she seemed rather upset. And 
while I explained the reason for my coming, she avoided 
looking at me, averting her face. Was my presence unwel- 
come because of the recent scenes in the Silver Hall, where 
even this angel of mercy had lost her head and forgotten her- 
self? Or was it that I reminded her of death, while at the 
moment she was preoccupied with saving lives? 

"The morgues are in charge of Mrs. Hallowa. They are 
located in the baroness' former private apartment." 

I went to the former private rooms of the baroness and 
knocked on the door which the baroness herself had once 
opened when I came there in search of Dr. Zitrom. Now it 
was opened by Mrs. Hallowa. As I explained my mission to 
her, I saw through the doorway, at the spot where Dr. Zit- 
rom had sat in a love seat leaning back on the cushions 
and regaling himself with cognac and coffee a coffin. I en- 



xni Drohitz Revisited ) 

tered. The whole room was full of coffins. 

"It is high time that someone took this matter seriously 
in hand. We no longer know what to do with them. Just 
look at this!" She opened the door to the adjoining room. It 
was crammed full with coffins. I made a quick count. 

"Are these all your dead?" I asked. 

"For the moment. I must ask the supervisor of the Criti- 
cal Cases Department how many new ones have accumu- 
lated there in the meantime." 

"Where are the critical cases?" 

"In the former guest rooms in the other wing. I'll have 
someone conduct you." 

"Thank you, thank you, no need; I know the way." 

A few minutes later I stood before the room which I had 
once occupied. I opened the door and stood stunned. There 
on his knees beside the bed of a moribund patient was 
Father Jacopo with all his sacramental utensils, fervently ab- 
sorbed in prayer. I tiptoed forward and decided to wait un- 
til he had completed his ministrations to the patient, intend- 
ing to speak with him afterward. 

His prayers had always exerted a hypnotic power over me, 
and so they did now. I did not know who the dying man 
was beside whose bed he was kneeling, but as though obey- 
ing an inner compulsion I went down on my knees and 
prayed with him for the unknown's salvation. There were 
three beds with moribund patients in the room. When he 
had completed his sacred office with the first, he turned to 
the next bed and again became absorbed in prayer. I joined 
him as though this were my appointed task. Not for a mo- 
ment was I molested during the prayers by my military con- 
science, not for a moment reminded of my duties. Rather, I 
felt the firmest conviction that in spite of all the urgent 
business my sole real task consisted in kneeling here in quiet 
prayer. 

Before we turned to the third dying man, however, I 



Bacchanal 

jumped to my feet and fled from the room. Once outside, I 
felt as though I had escaped the clutches of hell. For the 
devil I swear it was he had assailed me in the midst of 
prayer with the vision of the confounded Chinese whom I 
had bought at the bazaar on my first day in Drohitz. It was 
a preposterous thought that I might still retrieve him. Yet I 
had to keep looking around the room trying to guess where 
he might possibly be hidden. I had feared that unless I left 
the room at once, I would be unable to resist the tempta- 
tion, and in spite of the solemn rites for the dying, would 
begin rummaging through beds, wardrobes, chests and cor- 
ners for my piece of bric-a-brac. 

Outside, I waited impatiently for Father Jacopo, hoping 
that his appearance would expel the demon. As he emerged 
from the room he looked at me searchingly and at once per- 
ceived the chasm in my soul. 

"Don't despair, Ember," he said. "The Lord knows that 
man has the hardest struggle with himself. In His infinite 
mercy He understands and forgives." He made the sign of 
the cross and hurried off down the hallway. 

I left the Critical Cases Department. It really did not mat- 
ter whether a few more or less had to be removed, I re- 
flected and I quickly put the Castle Hospital behind me. 

The professor's chauffeur took me back to town. He drove 
from one Vabra avenue to the other, across a Vabra square 
and down a Vabra boulevard, until finally he dropped me 
off at Madam President's house. It was already nine o'clock 
in the evening. 

I rang the doorbell. Her husband opened the door. After 
all of Gertrude's lamentations in the Silver Hall over her 
poor, ailing Bertram, I was startled to find a man bursting 
with health and radiating vitality. 

"No need for explanations, Adam," he greeted me. "Ger- 
trude has told me all about you, and I've heard from 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 23 5 

Humperdinger that you're here in Drohitz to collect the 
dead. But it will be a while before you get me into your 
clutches, I can tell you that," he jested. 

"I need only look at you to give up hope." I played along 
with him. 

"I'm afraid you'll have to excuse Gertrude for a while. She 
was called away to an urgent meeting of the Ladies' Aid 
Committee. Conditions in the slum districts are something 
dreadful, they tell me. At any rate, she has your supper all 
ready and waiting. But how about a drop of cognac for a 
pick-me-up?" He filled two snifters. "I'm not supposed to 
drink, but I know you won't tell on me. To your health!" 
He downed his glass in one swallow, and immediately pro- 
ceeded to wash it carefully and replace it in the cupboard. 

He himself served the supper, and as I packed away this 
hearty meal I told Bertram how his loving wife had been 
worrying about him during her stay in the Mashinka. 

"Too much so, my dear fellow, too much so," he ex- 
claimed. 

At last Madam President herself returned. She greeted 
me warmly, and then described with deep perturbation the 
dreadful conditions to be found in the slums. An uprising 
by the embittered populace, she said, might be feared at 
any moment. But she quickly checked herself, and observing 
how tired I was, proposed to make my bed. 

"Bertram," she said, rising from her chair and turning to 
her husband, "I think you should give our guest your bed- 
room tonight. He will be most comfortable there." 

"Of course," Bertram agreed. "I'll carry my bedding to the 
other room and make up the bed for him." 

"No, keep Adam company, I'll take care of it," she said, 
and started toward the door. Bertram leaped up and quickly 
blocked the door. 

"Will you have the kindness to let me pass? I should think 
I have the right to enter my husband's bedroom," my hostess 



22 fi (The Silver Bacchanal 

snapped. "Or are you trying to hide something from 
me?" She fixed a stem gaze upon Bertram, at which he 
shrank to one side. 

As soon as she was out of the room Bertram's jovial face 
contorted in a grimace of anxiety. "Now I'm in for it," he 
stammered. "She's caught me." 

In a moment she was back in the room, her bosom heav- 
ing against the tight-laced bodice of her dress. "So that was 
why you didn't want to let me in!" she burst out. "That is 
what you are doing while I wear myself out on an all-day 
survey of slum conditions." 

A pretty mess I've walked into, I thought. She's found 
out he's deceiving her. To think that poor dear Bertram was 
an adulterer! 

She was holding something in her clenched fist. "So you 
wanted to conceal it from me, did you? This time you're not 
getting away with it." 

Apparently some lady had left an intimate garment in the 
room, I surmised. 

But I was wrong. She opened her hand, and to my utter 
confusion I saw a praline in a little brown wrapper. 

"Stuffing himself with chocolates behind my back and in 
days like these!" she raged. 

"Please calm down, Gertrude; consider our guest," Ber- 
tram pleaded. 

"How can I calm down," she went on vehemently. "Have 
you forgotten what the doctor in Podol told you? You'll kill 
yourself with your sweet tooth one of these days." 

"Now, now, Gertrude," he placated. "What with the epi- 
demic going on, nobody can count on being alive tomorrow. 
I'd just as soon die a sweet death, anyway." 

"You know I cannot abide your silly jokes. Don't try my 
patience to the limit," she retorted. "You can bless your 
stars we have a guest here or I'd really give you a piece of my 
mind." 

At this Bertram finally lost control. "If only you had 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 23*7 

stayed in the bordello/' he stormed. "All you're good for is 
to make my life miserable. As long as you were in the Ma- 
shinka I felt on top of the world; I could eat, drink and make 
merry. Now life is pure hell again, of course." 

"Pure hell!" his wife shrilled. "You have the nerve to 
speak of hell: you, who were able to sit peacefully and com- 
fortably under your own roof while I truly went through hell 
in the Silver Hall. And now you even stoop to rubbing it 
in that I stayed in the Mashinka." 

She rushed at him. I stepped between them. "My dear 
Madam President/' I admonished her. 

"Now, if that isn't mental cruelty," she exclaimed, turn- 
ing to me with righteous indignation. But as she looked into 
my face, she blushed to the roots of her hair and quickly 
changed her tune. "It's only that I want you to keep well, 
Bertram," she said in a honeyed voice. "Well, well, what's 
done is done, only for safety's sake go and give yourself a 
little injection now. Your insulin. Please. For my sake." 

As soon as Bertram had lumbered off she whispered to 
me, "Ember, I can depend on your being a gentleman, can't 
I? You won't say a word to him about the fashion show with 

Ludmilla, and what happened at the end there You 

know what I mean. You won't betray me?" 

"Of course not," I assured her. "Word of honor." 

When Bertram returned, she received him with maternal 
leniency. "Promise me never to do it again, darling." 

He nodded meekly. 

"When would you like your breakfast?" Gertrude in- 
quired before I went to bed. 

But I had had enough of hospitality for the present. 
"Please don't trouble yourself about that," I said. "I must re- 
port to headquarters first thing in the morning. Thank you 
ever so much for your kindness in putting me up." 

As I dozed off in Bertram's bed my last thought was that I 
should have let headquarters find a billet for me. 



Silver Bacchanal 

The next morning I reported for duty. A conversation 
with MannsteufeFs adjutant revealed to me the incredible 
state of confusion throughout the city. 

As long as I had been a subordinate I had tended to 
blame my superiors for almost everything that went wrong. 
But now, since I had risen in rank, I could afford a less 
biased point of view. There was no doubt in my mind that 
the commander had done his best to cope with a desperate 
situation. 

It was natural, of course, that Mannsteufel, in so far as he 
attended to the dead, had concerned himself primarily with 
those who had succumbed to the epidemic while serving 
their country. Nevertheless, no one could charge him with 
having disregarded the plague-stricken civilians. He and his 
subordinates had done all that an army administration 
could do for a city under military occupation. Thus, for ex- 
ample, he had requisitioned all public and many private 
buildings as emergency hospitals. He had expropriated pri- 
vate lands and turned them into special cemeteries. He had 
forcibly recruited civilians of both sexes into an emergency 
sanitation corps, had issued Draconic ordinances, set aside 
the civil courts and imposed martial law. 

Now it was high time I proved my mettle. I outlined a 
bold plan, which so impressed the adjutant that he offered 
me every possible assistance and promised to round up some 
helpers and vehicles for me by afternoon. 



As I left headquarters I decided to call on Dingda first to 
check his stock. His place was only a few blocks away, so it 
did not take me long to get there. 

Although I had expected, from Humperdinger's story, to 
find a flourishing business, I was nevertheless taken aback 
by the scale of Dingda's establishment. God knows, in the 
course of my career I had seen coffins a-plenty, but what I 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 2 30 

found here a whole warehouse crammed full with first-, 
second- and third-class coffins overwhelmed me. 

Dingda had already heard of my presence in Drohitz. He 
congratulated me on my promotion, and assured me how 
much he appreciated the privilege of co-operating with me 
in business dealings. He offered his help and advice and I 
thanked him profusely. 

"Think nothing of it, my dear Commissioner, or shall I 
call you dear colleague . . ." 

"Plain Adam is good enough/' I said. 

"All right, Adam, come along now and I'll show you my 
stock. You may be sure I shall do my best to satisfy you. I 
hope, of course, that you will also put in a good word for me 
with the proper authorities in regard to calculation of ex- 
penses." 

I nodded. "Well, you certainly must be doing a good 
business," I said as we hopped through his warehouse. 

"Oh, yes, everything is galloping toward the end now. 
The only problem is how to keep up with the demand. Now 
look at this section here." He pointed to a stockpile of 
coffins. "Those have been ordered by Army Headquarters. 
And" he turned to another pile "what you see here is al- 
ready bought and paid for by the church. These here" he 
pointed to a smaller section "are still available. I'll put 
them aside for you at once. How many will you need for to- 
day?" 

"I won't be able to tell you until this afternoon. But from 
what I saw yesterday, I don't think this will be nearly 
enough." 

"Unfortunately they are all I have in stock at the mo- 
ment. But Uncle Zucki from Podol, my cousin Pushtock and 
my nephew in Zanock have promised me a large shipment 
for tomorrow." 

He realized from the astonishment on my face that I had 
not quite understood. "Apparently you don't know," he ex- 



2j Q ( The Silver Bacchanal 

plained, "that occupational intermarriage is a tradition in 
our trade. This comes in handy in times of emergencies." 

"A brilliant business arrangement/' I remarked apprecia- 
tively. 

"Besides this/' he went on, "the army has placed a num- 
ber of recruits at my disposal. They are working day and 
night, some of them lumbering in the woods around town, 
some of them milling the lumber, and some knocking out 
new coffins. Here, you can see the carpenters at work your- 
self." He opened a door, and I looked in on a furiously busy 
workshop. 

We reached a section which bore a sign: RESERVED. 

"For Morgue Central." 

"For unidentified bodies?" I asked wonderingly. 

"Of course not," he replied. "Morgue Central is really the 
casino where high officials and the society dead are laid out 
the elite of Drohitz, so to speak, who can afford coffins 
like these. If you will just compare the rough, unplaned pine 
boxes over there with these gold-bound, ebony-stained, lux- 
ury affairs, you'll grant that the difference is enormous. And 
this here" he opened another door which led to a small 
chamber "is my iron reserve stockpile. These are only for 
super-special clients. If, for instance, such personages as Mr. 
Ginzele or our Madam President were to be stricken down 
... Or if, God forbid, you, my dear friend and colleague 
. . . Well, Til put one aside, just in case." 

"Most obliged, Mr. Dingda," I acknowledged his esprit de 
corps. 

"Listen, Adam." He placed his hands on my shoulders. 
"I've just had an idea. What would you think of entering 
my firm as a junior partner? You wouldn't need any capital; 
I would regard your experience and your connections with 
the high command as sufficient contribution. I know, of 
course, that as long as you remain in uniform you could be 
active only as a silent partner. But after all, it's a fine busi- 



xiii Drohitz Revisited) 241 

ness, not only now, but in the future, too. As I'm used to 
saying: Everything must come to an end, and for that reason 
there'll always be a demand for coffins. In any case give it 
some thought," he concluded. 

I nodded. "But now I'm afraid I have to get along," I 
said. 

"Wait just a minute." He held me back. "I want you to 
meet my daughter, Rebecca. She has taken care of the busi- 
ness while I was away. You should have much in common 
with her." 

He went to fetch her and soon returned with a comely 
girl of about twenty-eight who greeted me with a mixture of 
curiosity and embarrassment. 

"I'll get you a map of Drohitz so that you will find your 
way around," Dingda proposed and left us alone. 

"I understand we are working in the same field, so to 
speak," Rebecca addressed me. To overcome the awkward- 
ness of the situation she had obviously decided on talking 
shop. As it turned out she knew all the fine points of the 
undertaking business and I found it not hard to warm up to 
her. 

When Dingda entered and found us in such rapport he 
gloated like a bird that has just spied a fat worm. "Didn't I 
tell you, Rebecca, he'd make the best partner anyone could 
be looking for?" he cried. The mere thought of it delighted 
him so that he proposed inviting our Silver Hall gang to a 
party at his house. "I promise you a meal like peacetime. 
There isn't a delicacy or a drink that Dingda can't lay hold 
of. And you'll see how Rebecca can cook. She's a real jewel, 
that girl, I am telling you! How about Thursday?" 

"That's fine with me," I agreed. "But now I have to get 
on." 

I took leave of Rebecca, and Dingda led me to the door. 
"Think it over," he whispered and pressed my hand. I prom- 
ised to do so and thought over my prospects as I was tab 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

ing the shortest way to the school, which Dingda had marked 
in red pencil on the map. 

Suddenly I found myself at the Corso where on that 
glorious day of our triumphant arrival I had been swept 
along by the pulse of life as I strolled in the midst of care- 
free civilians. As I looked around now I wished that I had 
been spared seeing the Corso in its present state. The once 
lively street with its well-stocked stores was deserted. For in- 
stead of the throngs of flirtatious girls and women all I saw 
now was a horde of mangy dogs who were scrambling and 
scrapping among themselves. 

I quickened my pace to put the Corso behind me. As I 
turned into the market square I passed the cathedral. This 
being my first active day in office I decided to step in for a 
short prayer and Father Jacopo's blessing. I was in for a sur- 
prise. In the nave, in the side aisles, all the way down to the 
altar, I saw a host of coffins, draped with black palls, flanked 
by wax candles, and at the foot of each coffin knelt a pray- 
ing nun in the habit of the silent order. 

An elderly priest had just finished the ritual at the altar 
and now stepped over to the epistle side. A tinkling funeral 
bell rang three times. The priest turned to the coffins, crossed 
himself and began to read the collects prescribed in times of 
pestilence for all the faithful departed. 

The funeral service somewhat distracted me from my 
prayer and I felt that as Commissioner of the Deceased I 
should offer my assistance in removing the coffins. There 
were so many, however, that I realized I could not possibly 
wait for the end of the funeral mass. So I tiptoed to the 
sacristy to discuss the matter. Since I was not sure whether 
it was proper to knock on the sacristy door I opened it 
cautiously a crack. Seeing the sacristy also filled with coffins, 
and a young priest engaged in preparations for a funeral 
mass, I quickly closed the door again. Turning around I 
found myself face to face with a deacon, who inquired 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 243 

whether I was looking for a relative. 

"No, thank you/' I replied, introducing myself, "but 
maybe you can tell me where to find Father Jacopo. He is 
an old friend of mine and I'd like to offer him my assist- 
ance." 

"Father Jacopo is otherwise engaged/' he told me. "I am 
sure he'll appreciate your solicitude, although you need not 
concern yourself about our dead. The Mother Church pre- 
fers to return to earth the remains of her children who have 
fallen asleep in God. The brethren and sisters of our orders 
take charge of the burials in consecrated ground." 

I felt somewhat deflated and was about to leave when I 
heard footsteps in an adjoining corridor. Perhaps this was 
someone I could ask about Father Jacopo's whereabouts. I 
turned into the corridor and saw one of the nuns in the 
habit of the silent order. No luck, I thought, when, much to 
my surprise, she addressed me: "Is there anything you 
wish?" Seeing my astonishment she explained, "Father 
Jacopo has rescinded our vow of silence for the duration of 
the epidemic. He says that in times of tribulation it is more 
pleasing to God that we speak words of comfort to those in 
need. So please tell me whether I can be of any assistance 
to you." The words bubbled from her lips clear as spring 
water, as though the voice had been purified by long years 
of silence. 

"He is moving about," she said. "Since the cathedral has 
been given over to funeral masses Father Jacopo has es- 
tablished a flying church. He is preaching at street corners, 
hears confession in courtyards or squares and administers 
the Last Sacrament wherever it is needed. It is hard to say 
where he is to be found at any given time." 

Just like him, I thought, leaving the cathedral and pursu- 
ing my way to the school. Judging from the map I must be 
rather close to my destination. As I turned into a Vabra 
street a guard rushed off, shouting joyfully: "The Commis- 



Silver Bacchanal 

sioner of the Deceased! He's coming, he's coming/' Further 
guards passed the word on to each other until it reached the 
guard in front of the school. 

In the schoolyard I was greeted by a deputation of men 
and women. A haggard wreck with hollow cheeks, his suit 
hanging limply on his body, swayed forward and intro- 
duced himself with a half-extinguished voice: "Assistant 
Principal Ringwing. Professor Drish," he went on, "in- 
formed us that you would be coming some time this morn- 
ing. We have been waiting for you ever since, for we are sim- 
ply at our wits' end. Would you kindly follow me to see for 
yourself." 

He led me into the building. The entrance hall was an in- 
discriminate tangle of corpses which defied all description. I 
stood numb with horror as he explained: "It seems all the 
bodies for which they cannot find room otherwise arc simply 
deposited here at the school as if it were a town dump. And 
there is no one we can turn to," he went on. "If we appeal to 
the town authorities, they send us to military headquarters. 
If we appeal to headquarters, they tell us that the army 
dead must be taken care of first. It is left to us to worry 
about the disposal." 

"But in the meantime couldn't they be placed at least 
... I mean ... a little apart . . ." 

My consternation must have been written on my face, for 
he hastened to say, "Don't think it has been this bad all 
along. It's only since this morning, when Principal Kadosh 
collapsed, that things have got completely out of hand. He 
was carrying the body of the math teacher into the science 
lab when his feet gave way. We didn't dare move him. He's 
still lying in a coma in the utility room." 

"Did you have a doctor take a look at him?" 

He shrugged his shoulders: "You try to get a doctor these 
days." 

On the way to the utility room we crossed the science lab. 



xiii Drohitz Revisited ) 24 c 

It was crowded with corpses, while round about on tables 
and shelves stood all kinds of scientific gadgets, stuffed ani- 
mals, cages of white mice and jars with various animal or- 
gans preserved in alcohol. "Good Lord, couldn't you at least 
remove this miserable junk? Have you lost every ounce of 
respect for the dead?" Carried away by my emotions, I went 
up to the shelves, intending to clear the trivia away myself. 

"For Heaven's sake, Commissioner, don't upset the sci- 
ence lab," the assistant principal exclaimed, clutching my 
arm. "If our principal should come to again and find any of 
his science projects gone, he would suffer a stroke on the 
spot. Then we'd really be sunk for good." 

I must have looked rather dumfounded, for he hastened 
to explain: "You see, the principal is our science instructor. 
He has built up this department himself. It means every- 
thing to him. He just swears by science . . ." 

"Never mind," I shrugged. "Let's take a look at him now." 

We entered the utility room. The principal lay stretched 
out on the floor. I gave him the old field treatment pound- 
ing him vigorously on the back, pumping his arms for artifi- 
cial respiration, and he came to like a shot. 

The assistant principal pressed my hand. "Surely God 
sent you," he sighed with relief. 

As the principal regained his strength we conferred on 
the most urgent steps that had to be taken. I promised that 
in view of the situation I would give removal of their 
corpses top priority. While we were talking someone came 
rushing in. "Another sixteen," he announced. "We've no 
room inside and it's starting to rain. We cannot let them rot 
in the yard. So what are we going to do?" 

"Leave it to me," I said. "I'll take care of them." With 
these words of assurance I hurried to the door. 

"Who is this Commissioner?" I heard the principal asking. 

"A miracle worker," the assistant whispered. 



2 * (The Silver Bacchanal 

Outside I jumped up onto the seat beside the driver of a 
school bus which had been converted into a hearse. "To 
Morgue Central/' I ordered. 

A short time later we stopped at the casino. I bade the 
driver and his men wait for me and stepped in. 

Although the lobby, hung with black crepe and funeral 
garlands, as well as the icy silence which prevailed, gave the 
impression of a genuine morgue, I could not help thinking 
back to my first visit to the casino. 

"Your name." A man in a long-tailed black frock coat, 
black tie and gloves startled me out of my thoughts. As I 
looked at his narrow-margined forehead with the mouth and 
nose doodled in beneath it, I could have sworn he was Chief 
of Protocol Magados, although I knew full well that 
Magados had been the first victim of the epidemic in Dro- 
hitz proper. What a resemblance, I mused; it seems as 
though Magados' ghost had risen from the grave to check 
on the visitors to the casino. 

"Adam Ember, Commissioner of Deceased Persons," I 
identified myself. 

"Have you some kinfolk here?" the ghost inquired. 

"Nothing of the sort," I replied. "I've come on official 
business, Magados." 

"My name is Salvadini," he corrected me dryly. 

"Suits me fine," I said. "But now let's get down to busi- 
ness. I have a load outside which will have to be stored here 
temporarily." 

"Here?" he exclaimed, drawing himself up to his full 
gaunt height. "Out of the question. You'll have to try else- 
where. Our morgue is reserved for members of the casino 
and their closest relations." 

"Reserved for members of the casino. Ridiculous!" I 
snorted. "Every corpse has a right to a roof over his head, es- 
pecially in rain like this." 

"I regret that it is raining," he replied. "But the town has 
an agreement with headquarters that not even members of 



xin Drohitz Revisited) 

the officer corps are to be laid out here, only members of the 
casino and their families." 

"If headquarters ever made such an agreement, I, as Com- 
missioner of Deceased Persons, hereby rescind it. The 
bodies are being placed here, and that's all there is to it." 

"Look here, sir, you may be the Commissioner of the De- 
ceased, you may be Death in person for all I know, but I 
warn you this building belongs to the charter members of 
the casino. It is out of bounds for you. Unless you leave at 
once I shall be forced to call the police." 

I turned and opened the door, but not to beat a retreat. 
"Unload and bring them in," I called to the driver in the 
yard. 

When he and his helpers brought in the first bodies, Sal- 
vadini flew into a tantrum. "You don't actually intend to 
put these disreputable naked corpses into the same room 
where our casino members are laid out!" he stormed. 

"What do you mean, naked bodies?" I roared at him, not 
realizing right away that he referred to the fact that they 
were not encased. "Coffins or not," I went on, "one corpse 
is as good as another. Go on," I urged the driver and his 
men, "bring them all in and then carry them upstairs." 

Salvadini remonstrated: "You will find out yourself that 
there is simply no room upstairs," he protested. 

"We shall see," I replied. 

The sixteen bodies had been deposited in the lobby and 
the men were about to carry them upstairs when Salvadini 
took his last desperate stand. He planted himself with out- 
stretched arms in front of the stair and cried, "Only over my 
dead body." 

"All right, if that's the way you want it," I said, and 
shoved him aside. He screeched after the men who were 
climbing the stairs: "Under protest, under protest!" 

I went upstairs and he followed me closely, muttering 
curses under his breath. 

The banquet hall, where on the evening of our arrival 



( The Silyer Bacchanal 

the town officials and officers had fraternized so warmly, 
had been converted into a morgue. But what a morgue! No 
crowded sordidness here, as in other morgues. The whole at- 
mosphere was one of refinement. The place looked more 
like a reception hall in an expensive rest home, with ample 
space around every coffin. And how solid, elegant and costly 
everything was. The silver candelabra, the damask covers 
and so on. There had been no pinching of pennies here; ev- 
erything was first-class. 

I was just pondering how lavishly the rich were treating 
their dead when I heard Salvadini's voice: "Now you'll ad- 
mit yourself that there's no room to spare/' 

"On the contrary. There is plenty of room," I retorted. 
"We need only to move the coffins a little closer together 
and we'll be able to squeeze in another truckload if neces- 
sary." 

"It's an outrage/' protested Salvadini. "These gentlemen 
have generously supported the casino to their last breath. 
They have earned the right to enjoy their accustomed pri- 
vacy." 

"Privacy for dead men in coffins," I scoffed, and directed 
the truck men to get done with their job. 

From the casino I went to headquarters and took over 
the men, trucks and stretchers which the army placed at my 
disposal. I thanked Mannsteufel's adjutant for supplying 
me with what I needed and, as a man of character, I also 
put in a few casual words on the excellent quality of Ding- 
da's wares. 

After having made a brief rallying speech to my crew to 
arouse a true esprit de corpse we stopped by at Dingda's to 
pick up the coffins and then went on to the school to clean 
up the mess. By the time it grew dark we had done a full 
day's work and had earned a night's rest. 

When I went to bed in the room headquarters had as- 



xui Drohitz Revisited) 24 Q 

signed me I fell asleep immediately. Toward morning I 
awoke in a cold sweat, startled by an eerie laughter which I 
had heard in my dream. I remembered having seen Bertram 
who had greeted me with his jovial laughter, but suddenly 
his conviviality changed into Barnabas' wild hilarity as he 
bent over my bed shaking me vigorously. 

I jumped up and decided to find out what had happened 
to my old pal Barnabas, the only buddy from way back on 
the hill who was still around. Before starting on my rounds 
I inquired at headquarters and was shocked to learn that 
Barnabas had been transferred to the insane asylum. I 
pleaded his case with Mannsteufel's adjutant but was 
brushed aside. As it turned out they could not release him 
even if they wanted to. The prestige of the army was at 
stake. In defiance of the commander's express wishes, Bar- 
nabas had dug up the mayor in the Mashinka and was about 
to transfer his body into town. When he was apprehended 
and called to account he had answered with a hysterical salvo 
of laughter. I had to give up on him for the time being. 

We labored all morning long carting off corpses from the 
Town Hall and the Castle Hospital. We had barely a mo- 
ment to choke down a bite at noon when we were sum- 
moned to remove the dead from the Old Age Home and 
the Brewery Hospital. 

The epidemic raced through town like a conflagration 
that has got out of hand. It no longer contented itself with 
covering greater and greater stretches of town territory from 
one day to the next. It took enormous leaps from hour to 
hour. Since all the emergency hospitals were filled to the 
rafters, an increasing number of people were left to die in 
their own homes. That meant that we also had to rush back 
and forth to private houses scattered here and there through- 
out the city. 

A member of the flying disinfection patrol had coined 
the expression, "It's burning," in reference to houses and 



2 *Q ( The Silver Bacchanal 

districts which were ablaze with infection. From dawn to 
dusk the words rang in our ears: "It's burning here, it's burn- 
ing there, in the second house on Ulitz Street, on the north 
side of Tar Square, all of Heaven's Gate Lane/' Day in, day 
out, we were busy removing the "ashes," as the disease vic- 
tims were being called. 

Luckily Dingda did not fail me. Although the demand 
was staggering he supplied me with all the coffins I needed. 
Uncle Zucki and the other members of his clan had come 
through with their shipments. During one of the pickups 
at his warehouse I congratulated Dingda on having a busi- 
ness based on family solidarity. He winked at me, muttering 
under his breath: "Glad you see the point. Remember, 
Adam, my offer still stands. Don't forget Thursday night for 
the gala reunion." 

He need not have reminded me, for with the gruesome 
job on my hands, I was really looking forward to some di- 
vertisement. 



XIV 

Reunion 



i 



-Ve come a few minutes early so that we can 
discuss some urgent business/' I explained to Dingda upon 
arrival. 

"Oh no, not today, my friend!" Dingda replied. "This 
evening we want to forget all these business troubles and 
just enjoy ourselves as though we hadn't a care in the world. 
It's a unique occasion, after all, really like a blessing from on 
high, that along with our reunion, we are going to have a 
wedding." 

"What's this you say? Whose wedding?" I asked in aston- 
ishment. 

"Why, don't you know about it? Didn't the Humper- 
dingers tell you?" 

"No. I haven't seen them since day before yesterday. Who 
is getting married?" 

"Our Malva, of course." 

"Why, how wonderful. Did Philip get a furlough after 
all?" 

"No, not exactly that. But Humperdinger and the profes- 
sor managed to wheedle permission for a proxy wedding. 
And you know, everything has been turning out so well in 
all respects these past few days that the official permission 



2*2 (The Silver Bacchanal 

from the army reached us yesterday, just in time." 

"Who is going to play the part of the bridegroom?" I 
asked. 

"I'm not supposed to tell you that. We've agreed with 
the Humperdingers that it's to be a surprise for everybody. 
Come along and see what we've done here," he added, lead- 
ing me into the living room. 

The room was brilliantly illuminated, the walls and chan- 
deliers decorated with crepe-paper streamers, garlands and 
waxen flowers roses, tulips and carnations. "Well, how do 
you like it?" Dingda said proudly. 

"A regular florist's shop," I exclaimed in admiration. 

"Isn't it, though? It was a wonderful idea of Rebecca's to 
snip the wax flowers from the funeral wreaths we still have 
in stock and use them for decorations." 

"And how effectively she has arranged everything," I said. 

"Yes, everything my Rebecca does, she does well," Dingda 
agreed. He glanced at his watch. "I only hope the Humper- 
dingers will be along soon to give us a hand. We'll need at 
least another half-hour to get everything ready. After all, 
it's no cinch to arrange a party like this, especially in times 
when everything is coming to an Damn it all," he inter- 
rupted himself, "I promised Rebecca that I wouldn't say 
that tonight. Rotten habit." 

The doorbell rang. "That must be the Humperdingers 
now," Dingda exclaimed, rushing to the door. Ludmilla and 
Humperdinger and Professor Drish, their arms laden with 
packages, entered. 

"Sorry we're late," Ludmilla apologized. "We had to wait 
till Hump's baking was done." 

"Why, where have you been, Adam?" the professor asked 
me. "I looked everywhere for you, at the morgue and at the 
cemeteries, but I couldn't locate you anywhere." 

"How do you like the decorations aren't they gorgeous?" 
Ludmilla said to me. She handed Dingda a number of pack- 



xiv Reunion ) 

ages. 'This one is for the kitchen/' she said, "and these are 
the wedding presents." She put them down on a large dam- 
ask-covered table which stood against the wall. "Why the 
long face, Adam?" 

"I feel awkward because I didn't bring anything I didn't 
know about the wedding." 

"Don't worry about that no one expects a soldier to be 
giving wedding presents," Ludmilla reassured me, beginning 
to arrange the packages on the table. "If it really bothers 
you, Hump will let you have one of our packages so you can 
feel at ease." 

"Which one?" Humperdinger asked. 

"It doesn't matter. Any one of them." 

"Here, write your name on it." Humperdinger pushed one 
of the packages across the table to me. 

"I'm sorry to rush you, but we won't be done in time 
unless we hurry," Dingda said. The bell rang once more. 
"There, you see, people are starting to come. Adam, would 
you be so kind as to receive the guests and entertain them 
for a little, while we attend to the preparations?" 

The lard dealer and his wife Katerina entered. He was 
carrying an enormous parcel; she had a pug dog tucked un- 
der her arm. It was amusing to see how the long years of 
marriage had made husband and wife resemble each other. 
Both had the same well-stuffed figures, and Katerina's face 
seemed cut out of the same pattern as Hugo's round, moon- 
like countenance the sole difference being that his moon 
was clouded over, while hers gleamed forth as on a brilliant 
night. 

"It is such a pleasure to meet you at last, after all Hugo 
has told us about you," I said in greeting. "I suppose this is 
your famous Fatty." I nodded at the dog. 

"Right you are," the lard dealer declared. "Dingda 
thought we should bring her along. There'll be room for 
her somewhere, I imagine. Anyhow, Katerina wouldn't have 



2 tzj ( The Silver Bacchanal 

a moment's peace if she were to keep thinking of her alone 
at home all evening. We won't make a nuisance of our- 
selves, will we, Fatty?" 

"She's the best dog in the world/' Katerina said fondly. 
"Her temperament is just like my Hugo's." 

The next person to arrive was Mrs. Moffet, followed by a 
frail lady of advanced years. I bowed. 

"I would like to introduce you to my mother-in-law/' Mrs. 
Moffet said. 

"Is this the army gentleman, the commissioner you've told 
me about?" the old lady quavered. 

"Of course, who else?" Mrs. Moffet snapped impatiently. 
She turned away and struck up a conversation with Katerina. 
"We've run into each other at the grocery, haven't we?" she 
said. "And this other little guest as well. How nice to meet 
you and Fatty socially." 

I had scarcely exchanged a few words with Mrs. Moffet 
senior before I realized how little trust one can place in the 
judgments of daughters-in-law on their mothers-in-law. Cer- 
tainly you did not meet such a refined and charming person 
every day in the week. 

"My, what a beautiful sight," Katerina exclaimed as we 
entered the living room. "They look exactly like real flow- 
ers." 

"Oh, come, it's easy to see they're made of wax," Hugo 
protested. 

"Will you ever learn to take a less critical view?" Katerina 
reproved him. "If a person is really enjoying himself, wax 
flowers look just like real ones. Am I right, Adam?" 

"Absolutely." 

They put down their packages. "Who of us would have 
thought we'd ever be meeting for Malva's wedding, while 
we were locked up in the Silver Hall/' the lard dealer said to 
Mrs. Moffet. 

"I couldn't believe my ears when Ludmilla telephoned me 
this morning," Mrs. Moffet replied. "Has any of you the 



xiv Reunion ) 

slightest idea how these proxy marriages are handled? And 
who is going to represent the bridegroom?" 

The bell rang again, and I went to open the door. Madam 
President appeared with her Bertram. 

"How good to see you here/' Katerina trilled. "Wasn't it 
nice of Mr. Dingda to invite us all to this reunion?" 

"We were just wondering who the proxy bridegroom is 
going to be," Mrs. Moffet said. "Gertrude, have you any 
idea?" 

"No, I wasn't able to worm it out of Ludmilla," Madam 
President replied. 

Meanwhile the gray lady and Angela arrived, and 
promptly joined in the guessing game. But no one could de- 
duce who the bridegroom was to be. 

Angela looked sharply at me. "Maybe it's going to be 
you," she teased. 

"What a wild idea, Angela," Madam President blurted 
out. "Of course I don't want to say anything against Adam, 
he's a good-looking young man, but it would be out of the 
question for someone in charge of the dead to represent 
the bridegroom." 

"What's that, in charge of the dead?" Angela exclaimed 
in astonishment. "Is he working for Dingda?" 

"No, he's still in the army. But didn't you know Adam 
has been promoted? He's Commissioner of Deceased Per- 
sons now." 

"No, I didn't know, and I had no idea the dead needed a 
commissioner, not to speak of a live one. Anyway, congratu- 
lations," she said, shaking hands with me. 

"I can scarcely wait to see Linda and Timmy," Madam 
President said. "Ludmilla tells me the two children will be 
flower girl and page at the wedding." 

"Perhaps they're here now," I said as the bell rang again. 
I hastened to the door. It was Mr. Ginzele, accompanied 
by a servant carrying a case of wine. 

"Always large-handed, our Mr. Ginzele," Mrs. Moffet 



The Silver 



remarked as the servant staggered off with his load into the 
kitchen. "I imagine things will be rather gay tonight." 

"What a pity my poor son Albert cannot be with us/' old 
Mrs. Moffet sighed. 

"Oh, Mother, don't start that again," Mrs. Moffet re- 
buked her. "I've told you a hundred times over that I don't 
want to be reminded of him day and night." 

"Of course, my child, forgive me/' old Mrs. Moffet mur- 
mured timidly. 

"Where can Mrs. Dolbin and the children be?" Madam 
President broke the constrained silence. 

"Gertrude, this is going too far. You can't take Mrs. 
Dolbin's children under your wing too," Bertram remon- 
strated. "Sometimes I really do not understand you." 

"Of course you don't understand me. You just don't 
know what those children meant to us when we were all in 
the Silver Hall." 

The next arrival was the snub-nosed blonde, and immedi- 
ately after her came Mrs. Dolbin and the children. 

"Linda, Timmy!" everyone cried. "You certainly were not 
exaggerating, Mrs. Dolbin. What perfectly lovely children! 
You have every right to be proud of them." 

"Our flower girl looks like a little princess." 

"And what an enchanting dress." 

"I'm sure your mama made it herself." 

"No doubt about it." 

"And that sailor suit oh, I could eat him up." 

"How old are you, Timmy?" 

"Answer Madam President, children," Mrs. Dolbin said. 
"The boy is seven, and Linda six." 

The children, intimidated by all the fuss, hid their faces 
in their mother's skirt. Neither coaxing nor urging could 
them out. 

Suddenly Timmy caught sight of the dog. He nudged 
Linda, and both children made a dash for Katerina. 



xiv Reunion ) 25*7 

"What's the dog's name?" Timmy asked. 

"Fatty." 

"Boy or girl?" 

"A little girl." 

"Can I hold her?" Linda demanded. 

"First say how do you do to all the ladies and gentle- 
men," the children's mother admonished. 

Madam President held out her hand to Linda. "Linda," 
Mrs. Dolbin prompted, "shake hands like a good girl and 
show us a nice curtsey." 

Linda pretended not to hear. "Does she bite?" 

"No, Fatty is a well-brought-up little dog." 

"Timmy, Linda," their mother implored, "what is every- 
body going to think of you?" 

"Come, Mrs. Dolbin, don't let it bother you," Madam 
President placated her. "To children dogs are more impor- 
tant than people. My boys were just the same." 

"Wow-wow . . ." Timmy barked to strike up a friend- 
ship with Fatty. When the dog did not react, he asked, 
"Can't Fatty bark?" 

"Oh, certainly. But Fatty is a good dog and knows how to 
behave when she's visiting," Katerina simpered. 

"Tell her to bark, I want to hear her bark." 

"Bark, Fatty." The dog barked. "Stop!" Fatty fell silent. 
The children smiled blissfully at each other. 

"Can Fatty do other tricks?" Linda wanted to know. 

"I should think so!" the lard dealer replied with pro- 
prietary pride. He set the dog down on the floor. "Fatty, 
sit! Fatty, beg! Fatty, roll over! Fatty, gimme your paw. 
Now give a paw to Madam President." Fatty obediently 
gave her paw to everyone in turn, whereupon Timmy and 
Linda likewise shook hands all around. 

"That's fine. Now say hello to everyone," their mother 
prompted. 

"Fatty didn't say hello," Timmy retorted. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

"What a precious little darling/' Madam President ex- 
claimed. She bent down to take Timmy into her arms. 

"Let me go!" 

"Not until you give me a kiss." 

"Do you want a fight?" Timmy challenged, driving a 
small fist into her breast. 

"Ouch!" Gertrude exclaimed in surprise. "What a little 
savage!" 

Mrs. Dolbin was beside herself. "I can't imagine what has 
got into these children today," she wailed. "Timmy, you 
apologize to Madam President at once." 

Timmy stood in sulky silence. 

"If you don't obey at once and don't show better man- 
ners, Fll send you both home," their mother threatened 
them. Whereupon Timmy and Linda began to bawl, and 
the dog joined his yapping to their yammering. 

"Fatty, stop that!" the lard dealer commanded. Fatty hung 
her head in shame, and fell silent. The children instantly 
stopped crying. 

"Now show that you are well brought up too, and say how 
do you do to everybody," their mother pleaded. 

The children obeyed. Their heads turned toward Fatty, 
their eyes fixed upon the dog, they went the rounds: "How 
do you do, Madam President. How do you do, Mr. Ginzele. 
How do you do, Miss Angela. . . . Why is Fatty tilting her 
head?" Linda interrupted herself, turning to Katerina. 

"Come here, I'll tell you." Katerina whispered some- 
thing into Linda's ear. 

"I have to go too," Linda cried, and at once Timmy 
chimed in: "Me, too." 

"Leave it to me, I'll walk Fatty," I said to Katerina. 

"We want to go along," the children shouted. 

"No, first . . ." 

"Mama, I've got to hurry," Linda wailed, wriggling. 

"Oh, how darling children are," Madam President chir- 
ruped. 



xiv Reunion) 

"Do let them go," everyone urged Mrs. Dolbin. 

"I'll bring them back to you all in one piece/' I assured 
her. 

"All right," she consented at last. "But promise to be 
good/' 

"Yes, yes," the children screamed, clinging to me. "I like 
you," Timmy said as we started out. "Honest." 

"You're the nicest soldier I know," Linda flattered me. 
She pressed close to me. "When I'm grown up, I want to 
marry a soldier like you." 

After Fatty had done her business, I found it not so easy 
to lead the children back into the house. Timmy wanted to 
play war. He lifted Fatty and called out to me, "You and 
Linda are the enemy. Bang, bang!" 

"Now now," I fended him off. "We promised your mother 
to go right back. Some other time." 

"Promise?" 

"Promise." 

No sooner were we back in the undertaker's house than 
the bell rang again. Eve, accompanied by Violetta, stood on 
the threshold. As soon as we caught sight of one another, 
we exclaimed simultaneously, "Adam!" "Eve!" I held out 
my arms to her, but Linda ran between us. "Did you bring 
the snake?" she asked. 

Laughing, Eve shook her head. "I haven't any snake." 

"Oh, yes you have. It's in there. I can hear it rattling." 
Linda pointed to the box in Eve's hand. "Won't you show 
it to us?" And the two children began scrambling all over 
Eve, trying to snatch the box from her hand. To fend them 
off, Eve ran to the back of the store, followed by the chil- 
dren, with Fatty joining in the chase. Suddenly Eve vanished 
behind the coffins. The children looked around in perplex- 
ity until Fatty, smelling out Eve's hiding place, began to 
bark. The children ran in the direction the dog was point- 
ing, but by then Eve had escaped again and was hidden 
behind another rack of coffins. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

"Catch her, catch her, Fatty," they shrieked, racing be- 
hind the dog. 

The shouts and laughter drew the guests from the living 
room into the coffin showroom. Even Mr. Dingda came. 

"Timmy, Linda, stop that at once/' Mrs. Dolbin called. 

"Eve, enough, enough," Violetta cried. 

"Fatty, down!" the lard dealer commanded. 

Only Fatty obeyed. 

"No, really, this is going too far," Mrs. Moffet remarked. 

"Why, let them have their fun," Angela said. "I'm sure 
you don't mind, do you, Mr. Dingda?" she asked the host. 

Although Dingda was plainly nervous, he forced himself 
to reply politely, "Of course not." 

Meanwhile Eve had hidden the box. 

"Where is it?" the children asked. 

"Find it." 

They ran here and there, while Eve called out: "Hot! 
Cold! Warm!" 

"What a child Eve is after all," Violetta remarked. 

Yes, she surely is a child the only girl for me, I thought. 

Bertram came up to me. "May I ask you to introduce me 
to the pretty young lady?" he said. 

"Miss Violetta Mr. Bertram." 

"Delighted to meet you," Bertram said, bowing gallantly. 
"Are you a Drohitzer?" 

"Of course," Violetta said. 

"How is it that I have never seen you before?" Bertram 
wondered. 

Madam President drew him aside. "Don't ask such stupid 
and tactless questions," she whispered. 

Then the girls from the Silver Hall arrived in their finery. 
However, they had draped chiffon scarves and lace shawls 
so skillfully over the plunging necklines of their bordello 
dresses that their breasts and arms were decently concealed. 

"Time out," Eve called when she caught sight of the 



xiv Reunion) 261 

girls. "Linda, Timmy, come, I want to introduce you to my 
friends." 

The children followed her obediently. "This is Aunt 
Tamara, Aunt Lolo, Aunt Mizzi, Aunt Griselda . . ." 

"Mama," Linda appealed to her mother, "do other kids 
have so many aunts, too?" 

"I imagined them as being altogether different," I heard 
old Mrs. Moffet whispering to Katerina behind me. 

"I really don't know how to act toward such persons," 
Katerina whispered back. 

"My friends, may I ask you to come in now." Mr. Dingda 
invited the guests to follow him. 

"What about Fatty?" Katerina asked. 

"Adam will fix up a place for her to sleep," Dingda said. 

"Mama, please let us stay and see where Fatty is going to 
sleep," begged the children. 

Mrs. Dolbin nodded her consent, and I signed to Eve to 
stay behind. "Come, I'll show you where Fatty is going to 
take her nap," I said to the children, and led them into the 
room where Dingda had stored the luxury coffins for his 
special customers. There I deposited Fatty. "Now, let's go." 

"Uncle Adam." Timmy clutched my sleeve. "Won't Fatty 
be scared here?" 

"Why should she be?" 

"Suppose a ghost comes out of a coffin all of a sudden?" 

"Yes, Uncle Adam," Linda seconded her brother. "I'd be 
scared, too." 

"But there aien't any dead people in the coffins. These 
coffins are empty," I said. 

"I don't believe it" 

"I wouldn't tell you anything that wasn't so." 

"Then open one up and show us that nobody is inside/' 

I lifted a lid. "Now, quite empty. And this one too. That's 
how they all are. But now hurry back. We promised your 
mama." 



( The Silver 

"Aren't children simply adorable? You know, Adam, it's 
my dearest wish to have lots of children," Eve said, throwing 
me a love-stricken look. "How do you feel about it, Adam?" 

"I've never really given it a thought. But now come and 
tell me about yourself. Poor girl, how much you must have 
gone through! Your poor mother's death. . . . And what 
are you doing nowadays?" 

"Let's go to the back room where we'll be undisturbed," 
she suggested. 

"Now tell me everything," I urged her, but she closed my 
mouth with a kiss which lasted longer and longer and 
might never have ended if Timmy had not crept into the 
room and suddenly jumped up like a jack-in-the-box from 
behind one of the coffins, chanting: "Peek-a-boo, I see you!" 

"You little devil, how dare you!" Eve gasped, laughing. 

"I wanted to see what you were going to do with the 
snake," Timmy said. 

"Timmy, Timmy!" Mrs. Dolbin rushed in and led him 
back into the living room. 

But I had no chance to speak to Eve, for the next mo- 
ment Malva appeared, the train of her bridal dress looped 
over her arm, accompanied by an elderly lady of aristocratic 
air, with a wasplike waist and sharply angular features, who 
looked around disapprovingly. 

"Malva, dearest, I'm so inexpressibly happy for you," Eve 
greeted her. 

"Yes, I wish you all the happiness in the world," I said. 

"I know that, Adam," she replied, letting her train drop 
and throwing her arms around me. Then she turned to the 
lady with her. "Eve, you already know Maman, and this is 
Adam Ember from the Silver Hall. My mother, Madame de 
Beaujoin." 

"Adam, the guard?" her mother inquired. 

"Yes, the guard," Malva smiled. "But a true friend and a 
fine fellow. There's not another guard like him in the 
world." 



xiv Reunion ) 26 3 

"Enchantee" Maman nodded coolly. The tone makes 
the music the way she said it sounded more like: "To hell 
with you." 

It was simply incredible that this supercilious, Frenchified 
wasp could be the mother of warm-hearted, affectionate 
Malva. Perhaps Malva was her adopted daughter, I thought. 

Malva tried to evoke a little warmth from her mother. 
"You have no idea, Manutn" she said, "what would have be- 
come of all of us in the Silver Hall if we hadn't had Adam. 
Right, Eve? And how are the two of you getting along? 
I've been hoping that you too would soon . . ." 

"coute, cherie" the wasp interrupted. "I think we had 
better go in now." 

"Do you think that some day we too ... ?" Eve whis- 
pered to me as we followed them. 

"Would you like that?" I whispered back. 

"Would you?" 

We squeezed hands by way of answer. 

The rest of the party gave the bride a veritable ovation. 
Everyone thronged around Malva, showering congratula- 
tions upon her. In vain Ludmilla reminded them: "Hey, 
folks, take it easy, have some consideration for her in her 
condition." 

"Yes, let her be," Dingda protested. "Let her be, or 
there'll be nothing left of her for the wedding." 

At last Timmy, who had forced his way through to Malva, 
called out, "Make room, I've got to hold her train." This 
caused considerable laughter, and the greetings began to 
subside to be immediately followed by a barrage of ques- 
tions. 

"Malva, where is the bridegroom? Who is he?" everyone 
began asking at once. And the curiosity mounted to a pitch 
when Dingda announced, "Now let us begin." He instructed 
the company to form a semicircle. With Humperdinger's as- 
sistance he pushed a table to the center of the room. The 
professor placed a pen and inkwell on the table. Ludmilla 



rt fi* ( The Silver Bacchanal 

handed Malva a bridal bouquet of violets and brier roses, 
and placed a basket of lilies of the valley in Linda's hand. In 
a few minutes everything was ready for the ceremony. 

"Only the bridegroom is missing," Angela said. "Lud- 
milla, don't torture us. Who is he?" 

"Just be patient a little longer. You'll be seeing him in a 
minute." 

The budget director had stepped up to the table and 
spread his papers out on it. "There. And now, Mr. Dingda, 
will you kindly bring the gentleman in." 

Dingda vanished, and returned in a moment. "Here he 
is," he announced. And then the grand surprise appeared. 
In stepped Rogemund, dressed in a cutaway and starched 
shirt, with a white carnation in his buttonhole. 

"Impossible!" the others exclaimed. Our surprise was all 
the greater because no one had thought of Rogemund, al- 
though he was so obvious a choice. 

"We should have realized that he was the only one of the 
gang who was absent." 

"Well, not exactly the only one. Kalabas and Grimbam 
are missing, too. But of course we might have thought of 
him." 

While such whispering was going on, Rogemund took his 
place beside Malva. 

Dingda hopped up to the table. "My friends, may I have 
your attention for a moment?" he began, and while every- 
one listened in suspense, he continued to chirrup away: 
"First of all I believe I speak in the name of all of us here 
when I express my thanks to our dear friends, the Humper- 
dingcrs and Professor Drish, for their indefatigable efforts 
in obtaining permission for this wedding. We are also 
greatly obligated to our budget director, who as senior of- 
ficial of the municipal government has assumed the func- 
tions of a justice of the peace and will see to the legal for- 
malities. Because of my peculiar professional background, I 



xiv Reunion) 26 5 

unfortunately lack the gift to find appropriate words for 
such joyful occasions as this one. I shall therefore confine 
myself to a few practical remarks to explain why we had to 
wait until this morning, until virtually the last minute, be- 
fore passing on the glad news which has made this a double 
celebration. 

"Once it was plain that we were not going to obtain a 
leave for Philip," Dingda continued, "we set our sights on 
at least a proxy marriage, for which of course Philip's writ- 
ten signature would be necessary. That was by no means 
easy to secure, what with the present precarious communica- 
tions between the lines and home front. To our delight, 
that signature finally arrived last night. I trust that you will 
agree that we could have chosen no better representative 
for Philip than our esteemed friend Rogemund. Mr. Ginzele 
has had the kindness to be best man. My Rebecca is the 
bridesmaid, and as you already know, Linda is the flower 
girl and Timmy the page. May I now request the contrac- 
tual parties to step forward, so that Mr. Budget Director can 
begin the civil ceremony." 

All of us who had been quarantined in the Silver Hall 
had long ago made Malva's problems our own. The ladies 
in particular felt them as intimately as though they them- 
selves were facing the disgrace of bringing an illegitimate 
child into the world. For all of us, therefore, the legalization 
of Malva's affair evoked the strongest emotion. The ladies 
had their handkerchiefs ready in their hands to dry their 
tears of joy. But they did not seem likely to use them, for 
curiosity was stronger than sentiment. The married women 
especially, who at their weddings had stood opposite their 
proper grooms, with whom they were afterward to spend 
the wedding night, watched with bated breath this cere- 
mony whose wedding night had already taken place. More- 
over, Rogemund identified so well with his role that he 
beamed infatuated looks at Malva and pronounced his "I 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

do" with a quiver in his voice, as though he were the actual 
bridegroom. Even Malva seemed to find difficulty in dis- 
tinguishing between the proxy and the real thing. 

The handkerchiefs nervously gripped in clenched hands 
might have remained altogether unused had not the Silver 
Hall girls, for whom a wedding represented an unfulfilled 
dream, begun to sob. And since weeping is as contagious as 
laughter, all the ladies of Drohitz except Madame de 
Beaujoin promptly began pouring forth streams of tears. 

As soon as the ceremony was over, everyone clustered 
around Malva to congratulate her. The Silver Hall girls 
bombarded her with questions about how it felt to be mar- 
ried, so that we others had to stand in line waiting our turn. 
"Looks like our co-operative store ten minutes before open- 
ing time," the lard dealer remarked. 

"Well, you are a fine one/' Angela said to Mr. Ginzele 
while we were waiting to offer our felicitations. "I wouldn't 
have thought you could be so sly. You knew all about it 
from the start, and listened to the rest of us guessing without 
saying a word. What a hypocrite he is, isn't he, Adam?" 

"Why hypocrite? Just a gentleman who knows how to 
keep a secret." 

"Just notice the haughty way Madame de Beaujoin is 
acting. 'Merci, merci.' She hasn't said a cordial word to 
anyone," the women behind me whispered. 

"Thinks she's somebody special." 

"What has she to be so stuck-up about, I'd like to know?" 

"Her title, I suppose." 

"De, de, nothing in front and nothing behind it's just 
ridiculous! If it weren't for Malva, I'd tell her so to her face." 

"Ludmilla," the snub-nosed girl called, "can't you speed 
them up a little? We've been waiting forever to do our con- 
gratulating." 

"Listen, kids, give the others a chance," Ludmilla placated 
the girls. "You'll have Malva all evening, after all. But be 



xiv Reunion) 267 

quick about it," she said to the townsfolk. "We want her 
to get to unpacking her presents." 

"Oh, how you are spoiling me what heaps of wedding 
presents!" Malva exclaimed, going up to the table piled high 
with packages. "I don't know which to open first." 

"The bridegroom's, of course," Ludmilla said, pointing to 
Rogemund's huge parcel. 

Malva took her time opening it. Baby oil, talcum, absorb- 
ent cotton, a teething ring, six bottles and a dozen nipples 
emerged from the wrappings. "How kind and thoughtful, 
Rogemund," Malva cooed. 

"I wanted to bring you something you could really use," 
Rogemund replied. 

"I must give you a kiss for it," Malva said. 

The other presents were no less practical and thoughtful. 
The package from the lard dealer and Katerina contained 
baby food: pureed meat, vegetables and apple sauce, evap- 
orated milk and an assortment of cereals. "And a sheaf of 
ration stamps besides," Malva exclaimed. "You're so very 
generous!" 

"Your little Philip will certainly be well provided for," 
Madam President remarked. 

"Why, look at these wonderful things," Malva cried as she 
opened package after package from the Silver Hall girls and 
held up booties, jackets, caps and bibs. "Tell me, how could 
you possibly make all these things in such a short time?" 
she asked. "Do you have goblins working for you?" 

"No mystery to it," Grisclda answered. "Ever since 
Tamara predicted from the cards that you'd be having little 
Philip, we've spent all our free time working on baby 
things." 

While Malva started unwrapping Rebecca's package, 
Dingda and Humperdinger pushed the "ceremonial table" 
out of the room. Mrs. Dolbin rushed toward Dingda as he 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

returned. "I can't find my present anywhere. The man de- 
livered it, didn't he?" 

"Don't get excited, Mrs. Dolbin, there was just no room 
for it. We're bringing it in this very moment. . . . Here it 
is now," he said, as two of his pallbearers came in carrying 
a heavy box between them. 

"What in the world can that be?" several persons ex- 
claimed. 

While Dingda's men were untying the cord and stripping 
off the heavy wrapping paper, Malva held up Rebecca's pres- 
ents so that everyone could admire them: a silver spoon and 
silver cup. "How precious, how elegant!" the ladies chir- 
ruped. 

I was standing near Madam President and overheard a 
conversation between Mrs. Moffet and Katerina behind me. 

"How do you like Rebecca?" 

"I had no idea Dingda had such a pretty daughter." 

"Pretty, and a real jewel. It will be a lucky man who mar- 
ries her." 

"And think of the dowry Dingda's business is a pretty 
good thing these days." 

"Rogemund wouldn't be the worst husband for her. Did 
you notice how well he carried off his part as bridegroom? 
Made for marriage, I'd say. And a good-looking young fel- 
low besides. What do you think, Gertrude?" Mrs. Moffet 
turned to Madam President. 

"Oh, certainly, if only he wouldn't blink his eyes in that 
irritating way," Madam President replied. "It positively 
nauseates me at times. I can think of someone better for 
Rebecca him." She nodded in my direction. "And besides, 
he's in the same business, so to speak. How would that suit 
you, Adam?" 

I smiled constrainedly. Fortunately a head poked through 
the door and saved me from the necessity of answering. "Is 
it time yet, Mr. Dingda?" the head asked. 



xiv Reunion ) 2 fin 

Heaven help me, wasn't that the waiter, Karl? "One mo- 
ment, please/' I excused myself, and sped after him into the 
kitchen. 

"What are you doing here, Karl?" 

"I'm working for Mr. Ginzele now. I came here just to 
help out for today." 

"It's great to see you again," I said. "At any rate, this is a 
happier occasion than our last meeting with Father Jacopo 
and poor Madame Renoir." 

"I'll never forget that," he said in a choked voice. "But 
I'd better scoot along now." 

"We must have a talk later on." 

"Yes," he nodded. 

I returned to the room just as the pallbearers were lifting 
Mrs. Dolbin's gift from its carton. A cradle! "Just as I prom- 
ised in the Silver Hall," Mrs. Dolbin explained modestly. 

Deeply moved, Malva embraced her. She was still admir- 
ing the cradle, with its frills of light-Wue gauze, when Mr. 
Ginzele took an envelope from the table and handed it to 
her. "And here is what I promised," he said. It was the life 
insurance policy for little Philip. 

"What a baby shower!" Dingda twittered softly. "From 
the cradle to the grave." 

The Humperdingers' packages of baby utensils were lavish 
to the point of extravagance. "This one here," said Lud- 
milla, pointing to another package, "is from Adam." 

"You too, Adam?" Malva turned to me. "What can it 
possibly be?" 

I was just as curious as everyone else. 

Malva opened the wrappings. Diapers! "Well, imagine. 
Who would ever have expected Adam to think of that?" 

"I never would have," the snub-nosed girl remarked. "You 
ought to change jobs, Adam, and have a lot of kids instead 
of fooling around with the dead." 

Everyone extolled my thoughtfulness, so much so that I 



2 Jo (The Silver Bacchanal 

was on the point of confessing that the present was Lud- 
milla's. But she signaled me to keep that to myself. And 
after all, what did it matter? 

"And that one is from me, Malva," Madam President 
said as Malva began opening a box tied with white ribbon. 

"Aunt Malva." Linda plucked at the bride's sleeve. "I 
have to whisper something into your ear." 

"Just a moment, darling; first let me see what Madam 
President has brought." 

"It can't wait any longer. You have to hurry." 

"Do you want to go again?" Mrs. Dolbin asked. 

"No," Linda protested. "I can't tell anybody but Aunt 
Malva." 

Malva stooped, and Linda whispered something into her 
ear. 

"She wants me to open Eve's box first," Malva said. Eve 
and I burst into laughter. "Where is it?" Malva looked over 
the table, now covered with wrapping paper. 

"Here," Timmy piped, handing the box to her. 

"Careful of the snake," Eve called playfully to the chil- 
dren. 

Timmy and Linda jumped back. The box rattled omi- 
nously as Malva shook it. To everyone's delight, a baby's 
rattle appeared. 

"There, and now I want to see what your package holds," 
Malva said to Madam President. 

"How lovely," everyone murmured as Malva held up a 
hand-embroidered christening dress. 

"It's only a trifle, but it's the most precious thing I have. 
It was my poor boys' christening dress." 

"And you're giving it to me?" 

"Yes, for your little Philip." 

Malva set about opening the few remaining presents. 
"Maman is always last, of course/' Madame de Beaujoin 
said stiffly, coming over to her. 



xiv Reunion) 27 J 

"But, Maman, how could I know which of all the presents 
is yours?" Malva apologized. 

"The poor child really could not have told/' Madam 
President said, trying to soothe Madame de Beaujoin. 

"Oh no, it's always the same. It was no different with the 
baby I was the last to be told/' Maman snapped. 

Malva opened the package with trembling hands. A 
punch bowl! 

"Oh, what a lovely potty/' Linda broke the rather strained 
silence. 

"Silly/' Timmy corrected her. "It's a baby bath." 

Luckily Karl had uncorked the iced champagne and now 
started making the rounds with his tray of filled glasses. Ev- 
eryone drank to Malva's health, to the absent and the ex- 
pected Philips, and finally to the generous donor of the 
champagne, Mr. Ginzele. 

The guests stood around in small groups, sipping cham- 
pagne and chatting. Katerina and old Mrs. Moffct took 
complete possession of the "bridal couple," and the page 
and flower girl. I stood talking with the budget director and 
some of the other men; to our right was a group of ladies 
who eagerly eavesdropped on our conversation. 

"Since according to our civil law a marriage is just another 
type of contract," the budget director said, explaining the 
legal aspects of a proxy marriage to us, "the parties have the 
right to be represented by an agent, provided that a formal 
authorization of the absent contracting parties is presented." 

"What I wonder is how it was possible to obtain army ap- 
proval in the present situation," Bertram said. 

"For that you need friends like the Humperdingers who 
are well thought of at headquarters." 

"Quite right," Mr. Ginzele chimed in. "With fresh rolls 
you could wind the angel Gabriel around your finger these 
days." 

Mr. Dingda, who was being the attentive host and hop- 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

ping from group to group, came over to us, a champagne 
glass in hand, trilling in a slightly tipsy voice, "Tiri-li-li-li." 

"Just wanted to make sure you were having a good time/' 
he twittered. 

"And how!" 

"To think that we're having such a jolly wedding cele- 
bration here, while outside everything . . ." the lard dealer 
began. 

"Sh!" Dingda checked him, laying a finger on his lips. 
"Strictly forbidden tonight. Let us drink'/ 7 We raised our 
glasses. "One moment," Mr. Dingda called, noticing that 
Bertram's glass was empty. "Karl, fill Mr. Bertram's glass." 

Bertram threw an interrogative look at his wife. Madam 
President shook her head vigorously. "You know, Bertram, 
you must be careful on account of your diabetes." 

"Come now, my dear Madam President, on a night like 
this we can make an exception," Dingda invervened. "Just 
a drop," he ordered the waiter. 

"Cheers!" Everyone touched glasses with Dingda. Trill- 
ing, he hopped on to the next group. 

If he isn't a transformed bird, I don't know what he is, I 
thought. 

As soon as Madam President had turned back to her 
group of ladies, Bertram seized his opportunity. Holding his 
glass covertly behind his back, he had Karl fill it to the brim, 
and turning aside, swiftly tossed it down. 

"I can't tell you how happy I am to be here," Madam 
President said. "I feel just as if I were celebrating for my 
own child and grandchild." 

"Exactly how I feel," Mrs. Moffet said. 

"So do I all of us, don't we, Angela?" 

"All except her real mother. Look how she sits there on 
the side lines with that sour face of hers." 

"I'd like to know what is eating her. Can you figure it 
out?" 



xiv Reunion ) 

"No. I suppose you have to be a W something or other 
to understand such as attitude." 

"Gertrude, you know her better than the rest of us. Why 
don't you ask her what is wrong?" 

"Very well, if you think so/' Madam President said. She 
went over to Madame de Beau join. "Bianca, isn't it won- 
derful to see how everyone adores your Malva? Look at 
that table I don't think there is another bride in Drohitz 
who was so heaped with wedding presents. Aren't you 
pleased?" 

"Pleased, indeed!" Madame de Beaujoin replied. "Am 
I supposed to be pleased when my daughter has a baby 
shower for her wedding?" 

"It's just a matter of adjusting to special circumstances," 
Madam President snapped. "You certainly are hard to sat- 
isfy." She turned ostentatiously away to the group of Silver 
Hall girls who were standing around Eve. We also joined 
them. 

"We were just saying how Tamara's cards were right in 
Malva's case," Violetta said. 

"I wanted to tell you before, Tamara, that the cards were 
right about me, too," Angela said. "I have a boarder, girls! 
A man I tell you a real passionate type. If I were to tell 
you . . ." 

At this point Bertram pushed in between Eve and Vio- 
letta, clasping his arms lightly around both girls. "May I 
hear too?" 

"Move on," Madam President said commandingly. "This 
is something just for us who were in the Silver Hall. What a 
way to behave toward the girls!" 

Bertram slunk shamefacedly away. 

"Yes," Mrs. Moffet resumed the conversation, "the cards 
have been right about all of you. How is it, Tamara, that 
they've failed only in my case?" She gestured toward her 
mother-in-law. 



Silver Bacchanal 

"The time will come; the cards don't lie," Tamara pla- 
cated her. 

Recalling the prediction for Eve, that she would have 
many men, I whispered to her, "I hope they're wrong in 
your case too!" 

The door to the dining room opened. "Dinner is served," 
Karl announced. Rebecca, that jewel of a girl, had arranged 
everything perfectly; even the seating plan was carefully 
graded by rank and position. A name card lay beside each 
setting, and the guests moved around the table finding their 
places. An extra table had been set for Timmy and Linda in 
the adjoining room. Lured by the promise that all sorts of 
surprises awaited them there, they were quickly got out of 
the way of the grownups. 

We sat down. What a spread that was! It was truly a 
match for the mayor's banquet at the casino. Only a man 
with as profitable a business as Dingda's could have afforded 
such an outlay for damask, silver, porcelain and crystal. At 
the upper end of the table sat the host, with the bride and 
groom on his left, Madame de Beaujoin on his right. At the 
lower end of the table Rebecca presided. She had assigned 
me to the place beside her. Opposite me sat Eve and Ber- 
tram. 

We had already unfolded our napkins when Karl went up 
to Mr. Dingda and whispered something to him. 

"Why, of course, show him in," Dingda said. 

"A late wedding guest?" Violetta inquired. "I wonder 
who it can be?" 

The door opened and the unexpected guest entered. It 
was Father Jacopo. If it had not been that Karl, in all his 
waiter's solidity, had ushered him in, I would have thought 
him a phantom. 

His effect upon me was exactly the same as it had been in 
those strange situations in room zero during the service for 



xiv Reunion) 275 

the unknown whore and during the burial through the win- 
dow. From the first moment a power of consecration ema- 
nated from him that transformed our festive table into a 
church. Everyone rose. 

'The Lord has sent me to bring His blessing/' he said 
simply. Producing a crucifix and a prayer book, he laid 
them on the table, which seemed instantaneously trans- 
formed into an altar. No regular church wedding could 
have been performed more solemnly than this one with a 
dining table as a provisional altar. 

Malva knelt down before Father Jacopo. Rogemund 
stood for a moment in uncertainty, not knowing whether 
as a mere proxy bridegroom he had the right to receive the 
blessing. With the naturalness of a man to whose eye all 
temporal and earthly imperfections, including this proxy 
wedding, appeared transfigured in the timeless light of per- 
fection, Father Jacopo beckoned to Rogemund, ordered him 
to hold out his hand to Malva, spoke a prayer, and blessed 
the covenant; with the same naturalness he also blessed the 
fruit of Malva's womb. He laid his hand upon Malva's and 
Rogemund's heads, and held out the crucifix for them to 
kiss. Then all the others, with the exception of Dingda, 
stepped forward to receive the blessing. 

"Papa, do go," Rebecca urged her father. 

"You know I don't . . ." he objected. 

"Then do it for my sake. . . ." 

Finally, Dingda, too, received Father Jacopo's blessing. "I 
hope you will give us the pleasure of staying to dinner/' he 
said, and signed to Karl to set another place for the priest. 

Father Jacopo excused himself. He had only come to bless 
the couple; he must go back at once to the sick and dying 
who needed comforting. 

"Then at least have a glass of champagne," the host urged 
him. 

"No, thank you/' Father Jacopo courteously declined. 



2/7 6 (The Silver Bacchanal 

And like a phantom he vanished again as abruptly as he had 
come. 

"You feel like another person after something like that," 
the gray lady remarked. 

Everyone agreed. 

The transforming power of Father Jacopo's presence was 
even evidenced by Malva's maman, who sat relaxed and 
smiling for the first time all evening. 

"You feel easier at heart now, don't you," Madam Presi- 
dent said to her. 

"Naturellement" Madame de Beaujoin replied. "At least 
it is now a proper marriage." 

"Say what you will about religion, it is a force that gives 
people a lift," the budget director opined. 

"Wasn't it wonderful of Father Jacopo, overburdened as 
he is, to have even thought about the wedding, and to have 
taken the time to come," Mrs. Moffet said. 

"How did he know about the wedding, anyhow?" Mr. 
Ginzele asked the Humperdingers. "Did you tell him?" 

"Not us." 

"Then who did?" 

"Perhaps the Blessed Lord himself." 

"There is a real man of God for you. Don't you agree, 
Mr. Dingda?" 

"Absolutely! But God forbid that I have another experi- 
ence like that, or I'd have to start believing in things that I, 
as a freethinker, have doubted all my life." 

"Remember our gay champagne party in the Silver Hall?" 
Ludmilla said, trying to gloss over the impression Dingda's 
remark had made on some of the company. 

As soon as the Silver Hall was mentioned, Madame de 
Beaujoin's features stiffened again, and she looked as stony 
and aloof as ever. 

Meanwhile the vichyssoise was served. I found myself in 
a rather difficult situation. From across the table Eve was 



xiv Reunion) 277 

casting affectionate glances at me. As a well-bred young man 
I felt it my duty to devote myself to the lady at my side, 
and I could not reply to these looks as warmly as I might 
have wished. Vexed, Eve began to flirt with Bertram. And 
Bertram, the champagne and Eve's advances both going to 
his head, entered into the game only too eagerly. 

Until that moment I had not known myself capable of 
raging jealousy. When Eve, to provoke me, carried on worse 
and worse, and Bertram kept moving his chair closer to 
hers, I could hardly sit still. Moreover, Rebecca, consciously 
or unconsciously, was winding me in the toils of a con- 
versation that grew increasingly more animated. 

I was at my wits' end when, fortunately, Madam Presi- 
dent noticed how Bertram was carrying on and called to 
him warningly, "Finish up your soup, Bertram. You're de- 
laying the waiter. And besides, remember, no sweets! You 
know your diet!" 

Bertram understood the implication, and hung his head 
as meekly as Fatty. 

Eve promptly changed her strategy, and called across the 
table to me, "Remember, Adam, how we first met on the 
parade ground?" 

Now Rebecca gave the dagger a little twist: "I'm so ter- 
ribly glad to hear from Papa that you intend to enter our 
firm as a partner." 

I was caught in a neat dilemma. At the same time I sud- 
denly felt someone kicking my ankle. "Ouch!" I cried, 
looking under the table. 

"Beg pardon," Bertram said, blushing. 

It was not hard to guess that his foot had collided with 
my shin only by accident. I was familiar with that technique, 
for I had tried it myself with Violetta that first evening in 
the Silver Hall. A sly rascal, Bertram, I thought to myself. 
The sweets that are denied him on the table, he tries to at- 
tain surreptitiously. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

I smiled at the thought. Both Eve and Rebecca thought 
the smile was directed to them. This contest for my person, 
and Bertram's pedal flirtation with Violetta, continued 
while the trout and cucumber salad were served and the 
roast venison brought in. 

In the hierarchy of the animal world Grivan steer may be 
reckoned superior to venison, but in quality Dingda's roast 
was not a whit inferior to the mayor's. 

"What a huge roast! I'm sure you shot the deer your- 
self," Katerina said. 

"I didn't know you were a hunter," Mr. Ginzele re- 
marked. 

"Hunting is a passion with me," Dingda declared. "In my 
profession it is a relief to see an animal dead for a change." 

As Commissioner of Deceased Persons, I could sym- 
pathize with the sincerity of this remark. 

The appearance of the roast venison was the cue for the 
dinner speeches. The first to rise was the host. He tapped 
his glass three times with his fork and proposed a toast to all 
present. For a moment the old Dingda threatened to break 
out. "Since everything comes to an end," he began, but im- 
mediately corrected himself: "I mean, since the epidemic is 
coming to an end . . ." and painted a hopeful picture of 
the future that awaited all of us. 

Then Rogemund rose and drank the health of the hus- 
band whom he had had the honor to represent this evening. 
Ginzele, ever the gentleman, emptied his glass to the well- 
being of Madame de Bcaujoin, who thanked him with a 
somewhat chary nod. 

Speeches in honor of the living aroused in me, as on an- 
other memorable occasion, the urge to toast the dead. And 
this time, too, my oratory was not without effect. 

"Let us empty this glass," I began, "to our friends of the 
Silver Hall for whom, alas, events took a less happy turn, 
and who, therefore, could not join us upon this festive oc- 



xiv Reunion) 2*7Q 

casion. To our unforgettable friend Rappaport, to Lieu- 
tenant Waldo, and to our former hostess, Madame Re- 
noir!" Karl broke into sobs and let a tray full of dishes fall to 
the floor. However, he regained control of himself almost 
immediately, and began clearing away the shards. 

The following speeches took a turn which quickly made 
us forget the incident. The professor began to speak of his 
latest discovery, a fact unique in history, he declared: that 
while all the dignitaries and officials who had remained in 
Drohitz were dead and buried, we who had been quaran- 
tined in the Mashinka as disease suspects had mostly been 
spared, and were now charged with the historic task of guid- 
ing the affairs of the city. 

His words impressed everyone, for there is nothing more 
glorious for ordinary mortals than to learn that their existence 
has historic significance. Everyone sat erect and solemn- 
faced, as if posing for a group photograph for posterity. 
Probably we would all have held this pose indefinitely if 
Madam President, with her characteristic good sense, had 
not pointed out the practical consequences of the profes- 
sor's observation. 

"That is all quite right/' she said. "But words alone are 
not enough. If we are really conscious of our historic task, 
then we must learn above all to live up to it. And that 
means taking action! I sincerely believe that no one is more 
obligated to do so than we with our experience. For al- 
though the Mashinka was a hard school for us, we learned a 
good many things in the Silver Hall. We have personally 
experienced this wartime epidemic, a turning point in the 
history of our town. Life in Drohitz can no longer con- 
tinue-in the same old rut; it must be radically reformed, 
must meet the demands of our times!" 

There was a burst of applause, and a general outcry of 
assent and suggestions. "Radical reorganization of the mu- 
nicipal government!" the budget director called out. "Re- 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

form of the public health organization/' the gray lady urged. 
"Extension of consumer co-operatives/' the lard dealer con- 
tributed. 

"One moment, please/' Madam President remonstrated, 
tapping her fork on the table. "No, my friends, we will 
get nowhere with everyone talking at once. We must first 
form an action committee and proceed in an orderly fash- 
ion." 

Hitherto we had called her Madam President as a matter 
of courtesy. Now, however, it was more than a title; she had 
proved herself truly a president. 

In a trice the wedding banquet was transformed, under 
her chairmanship, into a regular committee meeting bris- 
tling with all the established rules and procedures. Mrs. 
Moffet, Jr., was elected vice-president, the budget director 
treasurer. He looked around questioningly, whereupon Mr. 
Ginzele promptly drew out his checkbook. The professor 
was charged with taking the minutes and began circulating a 
sheet of paper so that the others could pledge contributions. 
As the paper passed from hand to hand, the members of the 
action committee received their specific assignments in the 
reorganization of Drohitz. 

"And what about you, Adam?" Madam President asked 
me. 

"I shall do all in my power, with Dingda's help, to clear 
the city of the dead weight of of the dead," I offered. "Of 
course I am only here temporarily, but until the army with- 
draws . . ." 

"Nonsense, nonsense," several of the others protested. 
"You belong to us. When the war is over you must settle 
down in our new Drohitz!" 

"You will, won't you, Adam?" Rebecca and Eve asked 
simultaneously. 

I nodded, so that both could take my reply as consent to 
each of them. 



xiv Reunion) 2,8 1 

"And now for the agenda," Madam President said. 'To 
my mind, the most important prerequisite for successful 
achievement of reforms is understanding on the part of the 
population that Drohitz is entering a new age. As president 
of the Ladies' Aid, an organization which comes into contact 
with all levels of the population, I can assure you that there 
is a great deal to do. It is unbelievable, how medieval and 
reactionary many of our citizens are. Would you think it 
possible, for example/' she went on emphatically, "that even 
today a large part of the population of Drohitz blames the 
high mortality in the city not on the nature of the epidemic, 
but on the dead mayor's unlaid ghost?" 

"It seems to me that army headquarters is responsible," old 
Mrs. Moffet said, "for insisting on burying the mayor in the 
yard of a house of ill fame, instead of in his family vault." 

"That was merely a matter of expediency," her daughter-in- 
law retorted. 

"Since it was done that way," Madam President said, "I 
really don't see what was so terrible about it. If it did us no 
harm to live in a brothel for a while, why should it have mat- 
tered to our mayor to be buried in such a place? We ladies 
might perhaps have been guilty of such old-fashioned prej- 
udices before the epidemic, but not after all we have seen and 
experienced since." 

At this point Ludmilla asked for the floor. "Madam Presi- 
dent is perfectly right about that, but as she said, words alone 
are not enough. And so I'd like " She interrupted herself. 
"But before I make my motion, I want to make my personal 
point of view clear. You will all believe that I, a happily mar- 
ried woman, no longer take any personal interest in Mashinka 
affairs. Of course I have maintained my loyalty for my former 
colleagues. But the main object of my proposal is to help 
establish an enlightened and progressive Drohitz. And so I 
want to ask all of you here whether it is not a crying injustice 
that girls from the Silver Hall are ostracized like plague vie- 



( The Silver 

tims by the rest of the citizens and must spend the greater 
part of their lives behind the ghetto walls of the Mashinka. 
Why? What is so awful about their occupation? As the pro- 
fessor recently explained to me, it is the oldest of all civilized 
professions." 

The professor nodded affirmatively. 

"Think of what would happen to all the unmarried men 
otherwise," Ludmilla continued. "After all, they need it; 
everyone needs it. It's essential to health, to orderly govern- 
ment. Since this is so, I cannot see why people look down 
upon those who render such valuable services, and refuse 
them the respect accorded to other working people. In short, 
what I propose is: Down with segregation; equal rights for all 
women!" 

Ludmilla's speech was hailed enthusiastically not only by 
the girls, but also by all the women who had been tempo- 
rarily quartered in the Silver Hall. 

"Bravo, bravo!" Eve cried, clapping wildly. "Down with 
segregation. Equality for all woman. Let's unionize! Let's 
organize!" 

Although I consider myself an enlightened young man, and 
wholeheartedly approved of Ludmilla's motion, I was rather 
disconcerted to see a girl like Eve, the daughter of a general, 
taking such an eager interest in this particular subject. She 
had really gone a bit too far. 

At that moment Karl, amid cries of "What a sight, bravo, 
bravo," brought in a rum baba la mode, garnished with 
whipped cream. Two huge portions were dispatched to the 
children in the adjoining rooms. The guests could not find 
enough to say in praise of the cake. "Ah, what a flavor. 
There's nothing in the world that beats a real Humperdinger 
rum baba!" Everyone smacked his lips, and shoveled in one 
helping after the other, so absorbed in the pleasure of eating 
that the plans for a new and reformed Drohitz would have 
been forgotten if Madam President had not reminded us that 
the meeting was not yet adjourned. 



xiv Reunion) 281 

Mr. Ginzele was appointed chairman of a subcommittee 
charged with working out a detailed plan for reform of the 
municipal government. The budget director promised, in his 
capacity of ranking city official, to see that the committee's 
decisions were speedily implemented. It was arranged that 
the members of the action committee would meet every 
Wednesday at Madam President's house and report on the 
progress of the program. 

"If we succeed in carrying out our program, it will mean 
far more than merely changing the face of Drohitz; our town 
will become a model of progress for all the other cities in the 
nation/' Madam President said. 

"Yes, indeed, we are on the verge of a great new era," the 
professor commented. 

"And even if it should not be granted us to enjoy the fruits 
of this new era," Mr. Dingda expatiated, "our children and 
children's children will." 

"Let us drink a glass to the future of Drohitz," Rebecca 
proposed, blushing. 

"Karl, the champagne," the host called. 

"Bottoms up!" Everybody drank. Loud barking interrupted 
the babble of voices. 

"What's the matter? Fatty never barks at night," the lard 
dealer said, listening anxiously. 

"Oh, something terrible must have happened to her." 
Katerina had turned white. "Come, Hugo, quick." She hur- 
ried out of the room, followed by the whole action commit- 
tee, the whole wedding company. 

We found Timmy and Linda astride one of the coffins, 
happily consuming their rum baba and ice cream. Fatty's 
barking came from the closed coffin. Mrs. Dolbin furiously 
dragged her little darlings off the coffin; Hugo raised the lid 
and placed the liberated dog in its mistress' arms. "There she 
is, Katerina, safe and sound." Katerina snuggled Fatty to her, 
smiling blissfully. 

All of us began to laugh, now that all had turned out well. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

But Mrs. Dolbin could not be calmed. The usually gentle 
and affectionate mother, transformed into a fury, rained 
merciless slaps upon Timmy and Linda. 

"Just you wait," she raged. "Disgracing me like this. Pll 
never take you anywhere again. And now off you go, right 
straight home!" 

The word "home" sounded a signal to all of us. 

"High time we were leaving too." 

"I had no idea it was so late." 

"The evening has just flown by like a dream." 

"Come, do have one more little glass." Dingda attempted 
to hold his guests. 

"Thanks, but we really must be getting along home now." 

"Adam, wait just a moment," Rebecca and Eve separately 
and unitedly urged me. 

"Sorry, I can't possibly, I'm on duty. We'll see each other 
soon," I promised, leaving it unclear which one I was address- 
ing. 

"Come again, all the luck in the world, Malva." 

"And thanks for a lovely evening, Mr. Dingda." 

"A wonderful evening. Really out of this world." 

Farewell! Farewell! Farewell! 

"Until Wednesday we'll see each other at the next com- 
mittee meeting," Madam President called as she left. "Good 
night, all." 

One after the other we set out for home. Each into his own 
night, into the black night of Drohitz's plague-stricken reality. 



XV 

Farewell 



i 



hardly expected that the reunion at Ding- 
da's would turn out to be truly a farewell, not only in terms 
of our intimate circle, but also to the few remnants of joy still 
left in town. 

When I returned the next day to pick up the new consign- 
ment from Podol I told Dingda that the number of coffins 
wasn't nearly enough. I would need more boxes and in a 
hurry. 

He assured me that work in the carpentry shop was coming 
along at top speed and that by the end of the week his rela- 
tives would dig up enough coffins to fill my demands. "You 
see, Adam/' he added, "I am an optimist where my relatives 
are concerned. On Zucki I can rely as I do on death." 

"God grant you are right," I remarked. 

"No need to discommode God, Adam. My folks in Podol 
won't let me down. I'll send word to headquarters as soon as 
the shipment arrives." 

Unfortunately I could not wait that long. In its blind rage 
the epidemic disregarded all boundaries between military 
and civilians. It forced its way even into headquarters and 
raced through the building, mowing down officers as though 
they were buck privates. 



2 86 ( The Silver 

Mannsteufel's adjutant summoned me urgently and com- 
manded that all remaining coffins be requisitioned and trans- 
ferred immediately to military headquarters. "We can't have 
any dead people lying around here, understand?" he dismissed 
me. 

I drummed up my men and we drove to Dingda. As he 
came to greet me I could scarcely believe my eyes: the twit- 
tering bird was a broken man. 

"I am sorry to disappoint you," he muttered dejectedly. 
'The shipment from Podol has not yet arrived. In fact I've 
had no word from Zucki at all. And the shop isn't operating. 
I've lost three of my best men." 

"Sorry to hear it," I said, and then I explained that I had 
been directed to fetch whatever was left. 

"But not the iron reserve I am holding for our personal 
friends," he exclaimed, paling visibly. 

"I am reluctant, of course, to rob our friends of their cof- 
fins," I remarked, "But I have to take everything. Orders are 
orders." 

"Yes, I know," he stammered. 

As my men removed the last coffin Dinga looked on with 
tear-brimming eyes. "Who would have thought it?" he sighed 
sadly, viewing the empty warehouse. Remember how well- 
stocked we were when you came first to this place? A lifetime 
of hard work and now nothing. My poor Rebecca," he 
sobbed. 

Seeing him crushed like this I tried to comfort him: 
"Come, come, Dingda, don't despair!" and employing his 
own argument, I added, "Your relatives won't leave you in 
the ditch. You can rely upon them." 

"I hope so," he said rather doubtfully. 

"Well, I'll be waiting to hear from you," I remarked as 
I climbed on the truck. But I realized that the outlook was 
dim. While we drove back to headquarters I decided that 
drastic measures had to be taken. I could not risk leaving the 



xv Fare-well) 287 

mounting number of corpses without burying them. Much as 
I dreaded it, I would have to bury the dead uncoffined in 
mass graves. I tried to convince myself that there was really 
nothing to get upset about; after all, that was the way I had 
buried our dead heroes on the hill. Yet somehow I felt this 
was different. It pained me to dump the people of Drohitz 
beneath their own home ground. 

Since there was no alternative to this plan, I set out alone 
in search for the right spot. Then I started back to head- 
quarters to sumon my men. 

On the way I grew weak from hunger. I had not eaten all 
day and had visions of a round loaf of rye which grew larger 
and larger until it blocked my path. I found myself in front 
of Humperdinger's. As soon as I entered, the delicious fra- 
grance of oven-fresh rye bread struck my nostrils. 

"I am glad you have come/* Ludmilla greeted me. "Sit 
down, have a bite." As I was munching away she continued: 
"Eve wants to see you urgently. She has something to tell 
you. There was no chance at the reunion. Can you drop in 
for breakfast, day after tomorrow? I'll arrange it so that the 
two of you can be by yourselves." 

"I am terribly busy right now, but I'll surely make time for 
Eve. But tell me, what is it all about?" I asked, my curiosity 
aroused. 

"You'll find out soon enough." 

"Give me a hint at least," I pleaded. 

"Baby, don't pester me. She'll have to tell you herself. 
We'll expect you Sunday at nine." 

"You may count on it." 

The mass burials were a trying task. We spent hours and 
hours, digging and dumping. Still there was always more 
work to be done. We were in the thick of it when the pro- 
fessor came roaring up in his little car. 

"Listen, Ember, you've got to help me out. Things are 



288 ( The Silver Bacchanal 

moving too fast. I have somehow lost track. Can you give me 
the exact number of burials? It's for my chapter on the epi- 
demic on the Eastern Front." 

I had not the slightest idea how many bodies we had 
dumped during these last days. So I simply called out "Four 
hundred and eighty-six" the first number that came into 
my head. 

Next morning when we were just about to set out again, a 
messenger brought me the news that an urgent call had come 
through from Dingda's. I should hurry over immediately. I 
had scarcely hoped the long-delayed shipment would arrive, 
and now we tore off to fetch the coffins. I was happy indeed! 

The place was hung with swags of black crepe and the floor 
covered with a broad black runner. Rebecca, her face streaked 
with tears, came to meet me. She caught my hand and led 
me to the end of the black runner. There, Dingda, the coffin 
king of Drohitz, was laid out on a crude wooden platform 
that served as a bier. A sad sight indeed, like a dead bird that 
has dropped from a branch onto a plank. 

"I can't bear it," Rebecca sobbed. "To think that there 
isn't a single coffin left for Father." 

I felt somehow responsible, although it was not really my 
fault. In my embarrassment I offered to fetch a priest. But 
Rebecca declined: "It wouldn't be right," she said. "Father 
firmly believed that the end here on earth is the end of every- 
thing. He did not believe in a hereafter." 

"Then let me take care of his burial, at least," I suggested. 

"No, I am sorry, but I've promised the pallbearers. They've 
been associated with Father for many years now. It's a priv- 
ilege to them. You understand, don't you?" 

I nodded silently, not knowing what to say. 

"Adam," she whispered, "in remembrance of Father, will 
you promise to remain my friend?" 

"Of course I shall," I said, pressing her hand. 

Then I rushed off with my men. I worked furiously to for- 



xv Farewell) 2 8() 

get the whole incident, but I couldn't help thinking that 
without Dingda, death in Drohitz would never be the same. 

No Dingda, no coffins, and soon even the land gave out. 
I did not know where to bury my dead. All the empty lots 
were filled to the brim. 

I went to Mannsteufel's adjutant to discuss the possibility 
of having more land appropriated for my purposes. The adju- 
tant, obliging as always, immediately checked with the ad- 
ministrator of requisitioned property. It turned out, however, 
that there simply was no more land available. My disap- 
pointment must have been written large on my face, for the 
adjutant felt impelled to give me a little pep talk: "We here 
at headquarters are absolutely confident that in view of all 
your previous accomplishments you will surely find a solution 
to this tricky situation." 

The trust headquarters placed in me had an electrifying 
effect. Like a giant searchlight that reaches out into the dark- 
est night and illuminates everything in and out of sight, 
I suddenly saw the solution laid out before me. 

"How about the parade ground where we were received 
when we entered Drohitz?" I proposed. 

The adjutant slapped my shoulder: "Ember," he cried, 
"you are fabulous. What a glorious idea! Columbus' egg! If 
anyone deserves the Medal for Meritorious Service, you do." 

My chest swelled proudly as though the medal were already 
adorning it. I arrived on the parade ground in high spirits 
and inspected the terrain with professional care. I was de- 
lighted to find that it met all my expectations just right for 
mass graves! 

However, my moment of glory was short. No sooner had 
I discovered this wonderful new graveyard than the epidemic 
began to deprive me of the hands that shovel the soil, lift the 
corpses and drop them into the pits. With infamous guile the 
epidemic set upon my gravediggers and mowed them down, 



2 QO (The Silver Bacchanal 

one after the other, until at last I had only four men left. It 
was impossible to do the job with such a shortage in man- 
power. But when I applied for additional helpers at head- 
quarters I was turned down for the irrefutable reason that 
the epidemic had cut down many of the military men, and 
those who remained were indispensable for the maintenance 
of order and discipline. 

This confronted me with a situation in which not even 
a miracle worker could help becoming pessimistic. I already 
pictured myself some day all alone on the parade ground, 
with no helpers whatsoever, surrounded by piles of unburied 
corpses. I was about to leave headquarters in deepest dejec- 
tion when I ran into Dr. Kapra, who came down the corridor. 

"What's the matter, Ember?" he asked, noticing at a 
glance that something was troubling me. Two officers passed 
us, and Kapra signaled me to follow him to one of the offices. 

I was certainly glad at the chance of having a heart-to-heart 
talk with the man to whom I owed my promotion. 

"You are complaining?" he said after I had told him all 
my predicaments. "What shall I say? You are at least dealing 
with mute, motionless corpses. I am handling patients who 
wail and writhe day and night, and I am lacking both help 
and medicine to alleviate their pain. That's the worst for 
a doctor to have to stand by helplessly and watch them dy- 
ing under one's hands." 

He cleared his throat and went on: "When I applied for 
active service, although I am past the draft age, I thought it 
my God-given duty to aid the victims of war with all my 
abilities. But I'll be damned if I understand why God lets me 
continue in the service at a time when all my medical knowl- 
edge is worthless." He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, as they 
say, His ways are inscrutable. And yet I wonder why He con- 
tinues to spare Mannsteufel. To see the innocent perish on 
all sides while the commander struts around roaring his 
orders: 'Hold out! Our country's survival is at stake! We 



xv Farewell) 201 

must preserve the core of a new Eastern Army/ It's beyond 
me." 

I nodded agreement. Then we parted and returned to our 
sad duties; he to his desperate patients, I to my uncoffined 
corpses. 

Eager as I was to meet Eve for breakfast at the Humper- 
dingers' especially after Ludmilla's mysterious hints I 
could not keep my appointment. Everything happened so 
suddenly that I was not even able to send word to Ludmilla, 
and my conscience plagued me for having stood them up 
once again. However, I had no choice in the matter. The fact 
was that Dr. Kapra had prevailed on Mannsteufel to call an 
emergency meeting of all military department heads. It was 
called on short notice, the very morning I was due at Lud- 
milla's. 

When I entered the conference room at headquarters, I 
found Dr. Kapra, the head of the flying disinfection patrols, 
the head of military provisions and supplies, and the budget 
director, who had come as a representative of the municipal 
government. Mannsteufel himself arrived shortly to listen to 
our reports on the situation. 

Dr. Kapra told of the disastrous conditions in the hospitals, 
the lack of qualified nurses, the shortage of serum, morphine, 
needles and syringes; the chief of the disinfection patrols was 
almost out of disinfectants; and the budget director warned 
that the last reserves in the municipal treasury had already 
been exhausted. My report on the shortage in coffins fitted 
in with the rest. 

Mannsteufel took it all in, pacing the floor vigorously, then 
he stopped in front of us abruptly and bellowed: "We are 
soldiers and must hold out." That was his sole reaction to 
our reports. 

Dr. Kapra was the only one of us who had the courage to 
tell the commander bluntly that something more specific had 



2Q2 (The Silver Bacchanal 

to be done. "I am afraid/' he said, "that if these widespread 
shortages are permitted to continue, our situation here will 
become untenable." 

"Not another word, please," the commander exclaimed. 
"We cannot afford defeatism. The Eastern Front, the very 
nation is at stake. We simply have to hold out!" 

There followed a short moment of silence, in which the 
funeral bells from the cathedral could plainly by heard. Irri- 
tated by this intrusion, Mannsteufel beckoned to his adjutant 
and barked: "See to it that these damned bells are shut up at 
once! Well, what you you waiting for?" he roared when the 
adjutant stood somewhat hesitant. 

"May I most respectfully call your attention to the fact, 
sir, that the tolling of funeral bells is an age-old custom of the 
Church?" 

"What do I care about age-old customs! When I give 
orders the Church has to obey," Mannsteufel stormed. 

"Beg your pardon, sir; it is not alone a question of the 
Church," the adjutant stammered, "but ... the sensitivity 
of the populace." 

"Rot! Don't give me such nonsense. The populace, in- 
deed!" 

"I should like to point out that since yesterday's emergency 
directive, the people of Drohitz are in a dangerous ferment. 
Only this morning our men had to be sent out to prevent an 
open uprising in the Old Town. A new edict of this sort 
might arouse them even further." 

"Well deal with that rabble. Orders are orders." 

The adjutant clicked his heels and left. And then, as 
though his order to silence the knelling of the death bells had 
solved the general problem of dying, Mannsteufel dismissed 
us. 

"Well, there you have it. Now you have seen for yourself," 
Kapra remarked. 



xv Farewell) 

No sooner had Mannsteufel ordered the funeral bells to 
be silenced than Death retaliated. Incensed by the presump- 
tuous denial of an age-old tribute to its power, Death asserted 
its might by extending its domain. The epidemic gripped 
peasants on nearby farms, assailed hired hands in the fields 
and shepherds in the pastures. Whole villages were stricken 
and the victims poured into Drohitz. The military govern- 
ment was baffled that in spite of all the precautionary meas- 
ures to isolate the town from the rest of the operational ter- 
rain, the epidemic had managed to spread to the countryside. 

The first hint as to what was up came from the disinfection 
patrol which, in the course of its duties, used to burn cloth- 
ing, bedding and other personal belongings of the deceased. 
The head of the flying disinfection patrol reported that, of 
late, his men could find hardly anything worth burning when 
they entered the stricken quarters. This applied not only to 
the dwellings of the poor but also to the houses of the rich. 
It almost seemed as though the inhabitants of Drohitz owned 
only what they wore on their bodies. 

A few days later I was able to supply an additional clue. 
During the burial of some countryfolk I noticed a man in 
peasant boots who was wearing a white silk shirt with the 
initials L.B. Investigations showed that the shirt belonged to 
a retired businessman who had died two days ago. As it 
turned out, this was not an isolated incident. We came upon 
peasant women with nylon stockings and the other city 
fineries. It was obvious that the articles that the disinfection 
patrol failed to discover in the town houses had found their 
way to the countryside. There seemed to be a ring at work 
that seized the belongings of the sick and the dying before 
the patrol's arrival and sold the contaminated goods to un- 
suspecting countryfolk, thus spreading the epidemic to the 
surrounding villages. To stem the tide it was essential to 
catch the thieves and to apprehend the ringleader who di- 
rected these shady operations. 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

Mannsteufel ordered a thorough investigation. A number 
of suspects were arrested and questioned. But in spite of third- 
degree grilling, no confession was forthcoming, and the 
search for the depot of stolen goods proved fruitless. 

I scarcely believed my ears when the next morning the 
adjutant greeted me with the news: "We've finally found the 
master mind. By the way, he happened to be a friend of 
yours." 

"Imposible," I exclaimed when he told me that the culprit 
was the head of the Consumer's Co-operative. The moon- 
faced Hugo! 

"Unfortunately, the scoundrel has escaped his well-deserved 
punishment/' the adjutant remarked. "He hanged himself." 

I was suppose to gather corpses in the old part of town, 
but I decided to make a detour and pick up Hugo first. The 
Consumer's Co-operative had been sealed and the square in 
front of it was roped off. 

"Vabra," I called to one of the guards, who let me pass and 
directed me to a shed in back of the store. 

As I entered I was greeted with wild howls and barking. 
Only a dog can mourn his departed master with such woeful 
abandon. I found Hugo, the cut rope still around his neck, 
lying on top of a heap of old clothes. His round face shone 
for the first time with unclouded glee, as though the moon 
was actually smiling. His widow knelt at his side, dissolved in 
tears. 

"Katerina," I called softly, but she seemed too submerged 
in grief to take notice. I repeated her name a little louder and 
she lifted her tear-stained face to me. 

"I am so sorry," I stammered. "Believe me, I feel with you. 
A terrible loss . . . but, in view of the circumstances, we 
should not begrudge him his rest. Much has been spared 
him." 

She kept on sobbing. "Katerina, please calm yourself," 
I pleaded. 



xv Farewell) 

"How can I calm myself!" she sobbed. "Just look at the 
poor darling" she pointed at Fatty "God knows whether 
she'll survive the shock." 

"Maybe it's best if I remove the body," I proposed, some- 
what taken aback by her remark. 

"Wait, wait," she shrieked, and pressing Fatty to her she 
quickly snatched up one of the stolen garments and draped 
it over Fatty's head to shield her eyes from the gruesome 
sight of having her master removed. 

As I was about to leave with the body, Fatty managed to 
jump from Katerina's arms. She pursued me to the door and 
bit me viciously in the calf. 

The next morning early, before dawn, I was startled out of 
sleep by the cry: "It's burning in the Glaci." I went to wake 
my four men and we roared off toward the Glaci. As we 
passed headquarters I was amazed to notice that some of the 
rooms were still brightly illuminated. 

On the way through the slums I saw Father Jacopo, stand- 
ing in front of a one-story house administering the sacra- 
ments to a dying man through the window. We wound our 
way through a tangle of narrow streets, and finally reached 
the outskirts of Drohitz. There were only a few scattered huts 
and deserted barracks here. The cobblestone pavement came 
abruptly to an end; then we were on a dirt road which lost 
itself in underbrush. 

We seemed to have missed our way, and I was on the point 
of turning back when two headlights glared at us from the 
underbrush. Behind a group of birches a hospital truck 
emerged slowly and stopped beside us. A young man in a 
white smock called out, "Are you looking for the Glaci?" 

"Yes," I said. "We got lost somehow." 

"No, you didn't," he replied. "It's the first fork on your 
left." 

"Are you just coming from there?" I asked. When he 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

nodded. I inquired, "How do things stand? Much work?" 

"Not for us, just a few burns. But we've left plenty of 
ashes for you, especially in one house. I don't envy you that." 

I thanked him. We turned at the fork and reached the 
Glaci, which consisted of six houses, most of them run-down 
cottages. We investigated them carefully but found only a 
scattering of bodies. This couldn't be all. We branched out 
in different directions, lighting our ways with flashlights. 

"Commissioner" one of my men came running back after 
a while "I think I've found it." He led me to a building at 
the foot of the wooded slope so concealed behind hedges of 
evergreens that we had not noticed it as we drove past. Un- 
like the other houses, this was a well-kept, ample, two-story 
structure. The beam of my flashlight scurried over the en- 
trance door and illuminated a name plate: "A. B. Ginzele" 

"Stop, wait a moment," I called to my helper who was try- 
ing to push open the door. I rang the bell as if I were making 
a courtesy call, and only when nobody answered did we pro- 
ceed to enter a vestibule with tapestries and hunting trophies. 
"Hello," I shouted pro forma, but there was no reply, and we 
set directly to work. 

I sent my helper to the upper story to search the rooms 
there. I myself attended to the ground floor. I went down a 
hallway, opened the first door on my right and switched on 
the light. I found myself in an elegantly furnished bedroom 
which was a sight. The unmade bed was a tangle of blankets, 
sheets and pillows. On the night table I saw lipsticks, pow- 
ders and jars of cosmetics. Various intimate garments were 
scattered all over the floor. The former occupant of this room 
must have been taken on the hospital truck, for there was 
no one in sight. 

It was almost impossible to open the next door. Somthing 
was blocking it from inside. When I finally succeeded in 
forcing it open, so that I could squeeze in, I stumbled in the 
darkness and fell over something soft. I jumped up, groped 



xv Farewell) 2Q7 

for the light switch, and found that I had tripped over a body. 
I caught my breath; the dead man at my feet was the budget 
director. Half-dressed in the bed by the wall lay the lifeless 
form of Lolo. 

Ginzele's house! Not a living soul in it. An abandoned 
bedroom in utter disorder. The budget director and Lolo 
their rendezvous cut short by death. How did it all fit to- 
gether? It was not until I searched the adjoining rooms and 
discovered the bodies of Tamara and Grisclda, who shared 
a double bed with the two dead gentlemen, that the truth 
gradually dawned on me. Ginzele's well-hidden hunting 
lodge was obviously the underground brothel that Ludmilla 
had mentioned. 

When I opened the next door I shrank back with horror. 
On the couch, Eve, my one and only orchard, was lying 
dead. T stood motionless, utterly crushed by grief and remorse, 
cursing myself for not having taken care of her. I had been 
unable to keep our date, and now fate had arranged a ghastly 
meeting! 

My tear-blurred eyes examined the room and suddenly my 
grief gave way to bitter indignation. Good Lord, I thought, 
what on earth is she doing here? Then I knew in a flash why 
she had insisted on meeting me at all cost. She must have 
wanted to confess her shame. That's what it was. And Lud- 
milla hadn't even dared to give me a hint. And to think that 
this was the girl I had contemplated marrying, this the girl 
who had had the brazenness to suggest at the reunion that we 
should raise a flock of children together! 

I stood numb, with my thoughts in a whirl, too upset to 
know where to turn. Sure, I thought, I'd seen her in a brothel 
before. But the Silver Hall had been a different matter. This 
must have been a voluntary decision. It was too much to bear. 

I heard my helper calling from upstairs. I had to hide Eve 
somewhere. I didn't want her to be seen here. I noticed a 
door which apparently led to the dressing room and decided 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

to stow her away there for the time being. But when I opened 
the door I saw in one corner of this room the slumped form 
of a dead man, dressed in overcoat and bowler. The hat had 
fallen forward, concealing the upper part of his face. I raised 
his chin and gasped. It was Bertram! "Poor, good, dear Ber- 
tram," as Madam President used to say! If he had not been 
dead already I would have murdered him. To vent my rage 
I threw his dignified bowler on the floor and trampled it 
underfoot. 

Bertram and Eve it was simply incomprehensible! Or was 
it? Hadn't I noticed their shameless flirtation during the 
dinner at Dingda's? What else could one expect of a girl like 
that? But it was desperately hard to swallow. I thought of our 
first meeting at the parade ground, how she had asked my 
name and how significant it had seemed that mine was Adam, 
while she called herself Eve. When we'd looked deeply into 
each other's eyes, it had been like a vow; it was as though 
we stood in the Garden of Eden. But my Eve's fall was much 
worse than that of the first Eve. It's not the same to reach 
for an apple and to succumb to the seductions of a sweet- 
toothed serpent like Bertram. 

But I had to act. Fortunately the room where I had dis- 
covered Bertram was a connecting room with doors on two 
sides. I decided to push Bertram into the adjoining room so 
as to make space for Eve. As I entered the second room, I 
discovered Violetta's body. This gave me a sort of relief. 

Could I have misjudged Eve? Perhaps Bertram had spent 
the night with Violetta, and Eve was merely an innocent 
visitor. After all, poor orphan that she was, where did I expect 
her to spend the night? Why not close to her best friend 
Violetta! It was certainly possible, even most probable, 
wasn't it? 

I suddenly saw the reunion table in a different light. True, 
Eve had been flirting a bit with Bertram, but merely out of 
jealousy, because I paid too much attention to Rebecca. As 



xv Farewell) 2QQ 

soon as I had disengaged myself from our hostess, Eve had 
had eyes and ears for me alone, and Bertram had started 
playing footsie with Violetta. 

I returned to Eve's room, and as I looked once again at 
her innocent face and her childlike body with the pointed 
ripening plums of her breasts, the last traces of my ugly 
suspicion vanished. Without a doubt Bertram had come to 
see Violetta, not Eve. Eve was and remained my one and only 
true love in this damned war. Come what might, I would see 
to it that she was not thrown into a mass grave. I would give 
a decent burial to this slender, childish body that I had never 
possessed. 

While I was hiding her in the dressing room, I heard my 
helper's voice in the corridor: "Commissioner, Commis- 
sioner!" Damn the insolent importunity on the part of 
subordinates! I heard him pulling open one door after an- 
other in his search for me. To forestall his barging in here I 
hurried out to meet him. 

"Well, what's the situation upstairs?" I inquired. 

"This joint must have been a fancy house, Commissioner/' 
he said. "It's full of janes and men." 

"Many?" I asked. 

"Quite a few. How about downstairs?" 

"Quite a few, too," I said. "Fetch the others so that we get 
done with the job quicljly." 

When my men turned up, I ordered them to assemble the 
ashes from both floors in the lobby before carrying them out- 
side. I gave them a hand and placed Bertram with the rest, 
feeling that I was doing Madam President a good turn. With 
Bertram headed for a mass grave she would never learn where 
he had spent his last hours and he would live in her memory 
as "poor, good, dear Bertram." But how miserable I felt 
about my fine and trusted friends from the Silver Hall! 

We loaded the bodies onto the truck and drove to the 
parade ground, where I instructed my unit to take care of the 



(The Silver Bacchanal 

burials. While they were busy with the job, I drove back to 
the hunting lodge to give Eve my personal attention. There 
was little enough I could do for her, but I decided that she 
should have a decent funeral. For a moment I had the wild 
idea of slipping into the cellar at headquarters and stealing 
one of the military coffins. But I discarded it as too risky. A 
simple stretcher would have to do for a coffin. I draped it 
with a clean white sheet and took a few pillows from the 
house to prop up her head. Then I arranged her clothes and 
her hair, kissed her two hands and carried her out tenderly. 
In the measured tempo of a funeral procession, I drove my 
Eve to her last resting place. 

On the way I worried whether I would be able to bury her 
privately without being noticed by my men. But there was no 
need for concern. When I reached the parade ground, I found 
my squad of four stretched out on the ground, sound asleep 
after all their exertions. 

There was no doubt in my mind as to the one and only 
place worthy of her memory. I chose the spot where she had 
come running toward me after the mayor's speech, the place 
where our love had begun, where with looks and a handclasp 
we had sealed our Adam-and-Eve pact. 

I took pick and shovel and set to work. Although of late I 
had been leaving shoveling to my subordinates, I was still 
in good trim. Before long the grave was ready and I lowered 
my orchard into the earth. "Eve," I sobbed, and recalling 
her fondness for everything military, I placed my soldier's 
cap upon her breast. Then I closed the grave, wrote Eve's 
name in the sandy soil with my finger, broke off a few sprigs 
from a nearby pine tree, and strewed them over the earth. 
For a while I sat beside the bare mound and stared into the 
lifting dusk of dawn; my eyes misted with tears, I watched as 
the day rose out of night like life being resurrected from 
death. 



xv Farewell) 

I do not know how long I remained there, oblivious to 
space and time, unknowing whether I sat on the parade 
ground of Drohitz, or on the verge of an eternal void. Then 
suddenly I heard a voice: "Senior Commander Mannsteufel 
is approaching!" Whereupon the void, apprehensive of 
meeting up with top brass, retreated and left the field to the 
parade ground. 

I sprang to my feet. A detachment of soldiers was form- 
ing up on the parade ground; more troops were lined up, 
according to their branches of the service. I saw the officers 
pacing off their decimated companies as though for in- 
spection, carefully checking posture, uniform, buttons and 
caps, so that everything would be in order according to 
regulations when the commander arrived. 

Having just returned from the brink of eternity, I found 
it rather difficult to take hold of reality. Besides, I had no 
idea what these early-morning exercises on the parade 
ground were all about. 

While I stood gaping vacantly, the professor came rushing 
into view. "Commissioner Ember," he called, "I hope I can 
rely on you to give me the final total after the announce- 
ment." 

"Of course," I said; "but could you tell me what an- 
nouncement you are referring to?" 

"Senior Commander Mannsteufel's historic announce- 
ment, my friend," he called over his shoulder as he raced 
away. 

Meanwhile the whole supply train had driven up. The 
trucks stood in a neat line all around the edges of the pa- 
rade ground. Then Kapra appeared with his shrunken en- 
tourage. When I caught sight of him I ran over to ask what 
was up. But before I could open my mouth, he exclaimed, 
"Where have you left your men? Go and get them quickly. 
He'll be here in a moment." 

I hastily collected my squad and we joined the medical 



( The Silver Bacchanal 

group. Now the whole Drohitz army stood in readiness. 
And almost at once the cry rang out: "Attention! Salute." 

The senior commander appeared on the parade ground. 
He held himself as erect as ever, stared into the distance 
with the air of a field marshal and marched with supreme 
callousness across a row of mass graves. 

Confounded disrespect! I thought, and then I saw him 
marching straight toward Eve's grave. "Oh, no, you don't," 
I muttered under my breath, leaped out of line and blocked 
his way. 

"Begging your pardon, Commander please go no far- 
ther, sir." 

"How dare you?" he snarled at me, and pushed me aside. 

I grasped his sleeve in spite of its stripes and stars, and 
held him back. 

"Let go of me at once, you, you " he roared. 

But I was not to be bullied. As Commissioner of De- 
ceased Persons I alone was in command of all the graves in 
Drohitz, and I was not inclined to brook interference from 
anyone. "To this point and no farther," I exclaimed. 

"We'll see about that!" he bellowed. He wrenched away 
from my grasp and with his heavy military boots proceeded 
across the newly upturned ground beneath which lay my 
Eve. 

I pulled him back and shouted into his face: "Don't you 
see you're stepping on a grave?" 

He halted, murmured something inaudible, then made a 
snappy left wheel, and leaving the grave to his right marched 
straight toward the middle of the parade ground. I stooped, 
indited Eve's name in the sand once again, rearranged the 
pine sprigs and returned to my place in the ranks. 

It was not until I saw Mannsteufel standing there in the 
middle of the parade ground with beetling brow and that 
unsheathed saber of a nose that I understood the professor's 
remark. When I began to feel almost physically, deep within 



xv Farewell) 

my bones, the excitement and tension of the troops, of the 
dawning day, of the trees, the rising sun, I grasped the de- 
cisive importance of this historic moment whatever it was. 

"Officers, soldiers, warriors of the victorious Army of the 
East," Mannsteufel began, each word carefully articulated. 
"Since the day of our entry into Drohitz when we first as- 
sembled here on the parade ground, the supreme, the glo- 
rious goal of the Army of the East under my command has 
been and remains the ultimate annihilation of the enemy, 
the triumphant termination of this great war, and thus the 
assurance of a glorious future for our country. Faithful unto 
death to this noble goal, the council of war, held under my 
direction last night, has decided in the interest of strategy 
and for the purpose of regrouping the Army of the East, to 
transfer our operational terrain to Solopot. Thus there be- 
gins a new phase in our heroic offensive. All of you who are 
assembled here form the core from which there will rise, out 
of the soil of Solopot, a new Army of the East, whose des- 
tiny it is to win the final victory." 

When he referred to the core I could not help thinking: 
Sure enough, but who left the fruit to rot, so that only the 
core remains? 

"The Supreme Command, and indeed the whole na- 
tion," the senior commander continued, "is fully confident 
that in Solopot, as in Drohitz, you will all, to the last man, 
continue to conduct yourselves as soldiers beyond reproach." 

I rubbed my eyes, not to wipe away tears of emotion, but 
because I could not believe what I saw. For here was Barna- 
bas, of all people, strolling leisurely across the parade 
ground. How in the world had he managed to break out of 
the insane asylum, and what devil had led him to turn up 
here at this worst of all possible moments? God forbid that 
he notices me, I thought, and tried to hide behind one of 
my men. But of course he had already spotted me and, 
sauntering casually on, came straight to me. 



^ Q * ( The Silver Bacchanal 

"The epidemic which has so viciously assailed the Army 
of the East in Drohitz," Mannsteufel continued, "has re- 
grettably somewhat delayed our planned offensive. Now, 
however, the time has come for us to hail the epidemic as 
our most important ally in this war, an ally that will help us 
to win a swift and final victory." 

With alarm I observed the corners of Barnabas' mouth 
begin to twitch. I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow and 
threw him a warning frown. At once his brows contracted; 
he looked down at the ground and tried to keep control of 
himself. But as Mannsteufel continued to expatiate on the 
alliance between the epidemic and the Army of the East, 
Barnabas' hold on himself grew weaker and weaker. 

"In clear recognition of this invaluable assistance, the 
Supreme Command decided last night to evacuate Drohitz 
and to leave the disease-stricken city behind as a death trap 
for the approaching enemy. When the enemy marches into 
Drohitz, we shall have won our first important victory, which 
will lead inevitably to our final supremacy. Thus the hour of 
Drohitz' true greatness has struck at last, the hour for whose 
coming this patriotic city has yearned, the hour which in the 
future will cause the name of the city of Drohitz to be in- 
scribed in golden letters in the annals of this great war." 

At this point Barnabas could no longer restrain himself. 
His whole body shaking, he broke into peals of laughter. 
The senior commander glared in the direction of the dis- 
turbance and motioned to have the troublemaker removed. 
Two medical aides seized Barnabas and led him away. He 
made no resistance, for he was too weak from laughter. 

Somewhat dazedly I listened while the commander an- 
nounced his plans for the heroic soldiers in the hospitals. 
As it turned out, these sick heroes would not be left behind, 
but would be taken aboard a sealed hospital train, which 
the War Ministry had promised to supply shortly. They 
would be transported to the hinterland, nursed back to 



xv Fare-well) 

health and reactivated for further service to their country. 
My unit was to be attached to Dr. Kapra's medical section, 
to speed the removal of the sick. 

"And now, Drohitz, farewell!" the commander cried into 
the perfect silence of the troops. Rigid as a granite column, 
a monument of patriotic resolution, he stood at attention, 
and might have frozen in his heroic pose forever had it not 
been for a signal from his adjutant, which induced the core 
of the Eastern Army to cheer: "Hurrah for victory! Hurrah 
for our country!" One of the officers intoned the national 
anthem, and the core became a chorus. 

To the strains of the anthem, the troops, led by the com- 
mander, marched off the parade ground, on toward Solopot 
and ever new and more glorious victories. As they marched 
off a voice called out clearly: "Good riddancel" 

"Doesn't that sound like Mayor Gospoda's voice?" Dr. 
Kapra remarked. 

"Yes, it was he," I stated. 

"All I said was that it sounded like his voice," the doctor 
corrected me. "You don't expect an enlightened man like 
myself to believe that he's still around." 

"Of course not," I said. "Maybe he's dead and gone, but 
his voice is still alive." 

The doctor removed his borrowed glasses and looked 
searchingly at me out of his greenish, nearsighted eyes. A 
faint smile played around the corners of his mouth. 



Rene Fulop-Miller 



Born in 1891 in Caransebes, Hungary now Romania 
Ren6 Fulop-Miller now lives in Westport, Connecticut. 
He has lived in eleven countries, studied philosophy, 
literature, history and the natural sciences at several 
European universities, worked in psychiatry with Forel, 
Babinsky and Freud, received a degree in chemistry and 
pharmacology and awards for his work in these fields, 
taught at various universities Russian civilization, 
sociology and Renaissance and sevententh-century 
literature. He now teaches sociology and cultural history 
at Hunter College in New York. He has been active in 
practically every field of writing, has written sixteen 
books published in this country, and many others 
published in German and French and translated into 
nineteen languages. His article, "Dostoyevsky's Sacred 
Disease," was the basis both of Freud's essay 
"Dostoyevsky and Parricide" and of his introduction to 
"The Unknown Brothers Karamazov," which Mr. 
Filldp'Mitter edited as one volume of the posthumous 
Dostoyevsky editions.